* Re “Deputy Benefits Top Civilian Perks, Study Says,” Dec. 17.
It has always been my belief that labor contracts should not be negotiated in the press. Therefore, I will refrain from making any statements about the ongoing process between the county and the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Assn.
I feel, however, that I must respond to a [statement attributed to a county employee, saying that] Sheriff’s Department employees have come to simply expect such privileges as 3% at 50 retirement because of a local ordinance that exclusively earmarks about $40 million a year in proceeds from a half-cent sales tax for public safety agencies.
This statement, as used in your article, unfairly implies that our deputies who perform a high-risk job under difficult conditions are spoiled or overindulged. The public safety ordinance has no provision requiring any increases to employees’ salaries or benefits. The Board of Supervisors retains complete discretion in granting raises or benefits.
Comments in your article also imply that county retirement or general funds would bear the full impact of any retirement benefits granted to public safety and general employees. The truth is that there are a variety of options available to fund benefit increases without endangering either fund.
As sheriff, I am committed to providing the highest quality law enforcement services to the residents of Ventura County. A key element to maintaining a high quality, professional law enforcement agency is being able to attract and retain individuals with the outstanding personal qualities necessary to be an officer.
Our deputies continue to be paid less and receive fewer benefits than their peers in the Ventura, Simi Valley and Oxnard police departments and the California Highway Patrol. It is this disparity in benefits that has led an increasing number of deputies to seek better compensation with other agencies, after they have completed an expensive seven-month training process.
Public safety retirement systems traditionally reflect the inherent risk of the job and actuarial rates that reflect a shorter life span based on exposure to violence, perversion, tragedy and danger that take a tremendous physical and psychological toll over the course of a career. Unlike for most other county employees, the possibility of death or disability is a reality that our deputies and their families live with daily. It is also unrealistic to compare retirement earnings with other county employees at age 70 because very few deputies are capable of meeting the physical demands of this profession beyond their 50s.
I understand the county’s obligation to negotiate a contract within its resources. That goal is not advanced by alleging that dedicated employees who want equality with industry standards “simply expect” entitlements without giving them the opportunity to offer a plan to finance the benefits.
Let’s allow the negotiations to proceed in good faith toward a fair and equitable compensation package.
Ventura County Sheriff