As the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department launches a major hiring push, county officials are concerned that it will have a hard time filling hundreds of positions without compromising hiring standards.
During discussions about the budget for the coming fiscal year Tuesday, county supervisors called for the sheriff to develop a "hiring and recruitment plan which includes strategies for attracting qualified and diverse applicants."
The department is trying to fill 440 deputy and sergeant positions now. In the coming weeks, the Board of Supervisors will probably approve another 77 positions needed to implement a settlement in a lawsuit over abuses in the jails and an anticipated settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the treatment of mentally ill inmates and the prevention of inmate suicide.
And the recommended budget for next year would add another 119 positions, many of them intended to help the department implement further reforms.
In a previous hiring push under then-Sheriff Lee Baca in 2010, the department hired dozens of applicants who had serious issues in their backgrounds, including criminal convictions, on-duty misconduct, poor job performance and financial problems.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell promised that won't happen this time.
"We will not compromise our hiring standards," he told the board Tuesday. "I'd rather work short-staffed than hire the wrong people for our organization."
The average time it takes an applicant to go through the hiring process, including background checks, is about eight months. Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, who oversees personnel, said the process used to take 24 months, but has since been restructured, and that the department has substantially reduced its backlog of applicants.
Rogers also promised that the department won't lower its standards again.
"We really have no incentive to hire the wrong people or not give them the proper training, because then we're stuck with them," he said.
Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Hilda Solis, who asked the department to present a recruitment plan as part of the budget process, wrote that the recruitment drive "presents an opportunity for addressing the challenges facing the department today by targeting candidates who possess attributes such as cultural competence, conflict de-escalation and an aptitude for working with the mentally ill."
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