Sheriff's Office Responds to Questions About the Hiring Process

August 19, 2014

Like almost everything in life, the raw numbers involved in your requests do not tell the whole story. What follows is a detailed explanation of how and why we hire people. I hope this will shed some light on the process for you.

First and foremost, the Sheriff has absolute authority to hire deputies as he sees fit, per Colorado Revised Statutes §30-10-506 which states in part: “Each Sheriff may appoint as many deputies as the Sheriff may think proper...”

With the passage of 1A, the Sheriff committed to increasing the size of the Patrol Division, which had not seen an increase since the early 1990’s. In that same time frame, the population of El Paso County has increased from 397,491 people (1990 census) to over 644,964 (2012 census).

The Sheriff’s Office is like any large organization, in which we are losing people on a regular basis. Historically, our average loss per month is approximately 2.3 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) positions. Per year, that averages out to about 28 positions.

Simplistically, the answer then, is to hire 28 people a year. However, Law Enforcement has some unique challenges that necessitate a lengthy hiring cycle.  

Our hiring process is very particular and includes written testing, a detailed background check, CVSA exam, psychological exam, a drug screen, and interviews. This generally takes 4-6 months.

After being hired, every sworn member of the Sheriff’s Office is required to attend our POST approved Basic Recruit Academy. The actual time for this varies, but is generally is about 20 weeks for a large academy and 17 weeks for a smaller academy. The variation is due to the need to break the large academies into 2 groups for skills training, holidays and other factors.

In that time, we expect to lose at least 10% of the recruits for various reasons.

After the basic academy, all recruits are assigned to the Criminal Justice Center, where they undergo 6 weeks of Detention specific training, partnered up with a Detention Training Officer. After they pass that phase of training, they are able to work a ward at the jail by themselves.

So, at minimum, it is approximately 40 weeks from the time the Sheriff says “We need to hire more people” to the time they are fully qualified to work in the jail.

Generally, deputies will work in the detentions bureau for a while before testing to come to Patrol. During that time, they will attend additional training of various sorts, usually at least 2-3 week’s worth. After they are selected to transfer to Patrol, they attend a week of Patrol specific training, (mostly report writing) and then a 14 week Field Training cycle, partnered up with a Field Training Officer.

Patrol is a very challenging and demanding job and typically, we have 5-15% of the patrol applicants that do not work out for one reason or another. These applicants usually return to the jail where many of them excel. For example, if we take 12 transfers from the jail, historically only 9 of them will complete field training and become fully qualified patrol deputies.

All of this, mind you, is in a perfect world and does not account vacation, illness, injury, and any one of the hundreds of other factors that may extend that time.

So, from the time a recruit starts the academy until the time they are able to work a road district by themselves involves at least 37 weeks of our training and usually 2-3 weeks of outside training, for a total of over 40 weeks of training and, in reality, at least 18-24 months of actual calendar time. 

Taking the academy that started on August 18th for example, the numbers break down like this:

Hiring process starts. About 4 months later, an academy begins. We are now down, through normal attrition, 9 people in the agency.

20 recruits hired. In the academy, we will have lost 2 of them.

17 weeks later, 18 recruits will start at CJC. By that time, we have lost 9 more people in the office through normal attrition.

6 weeks later, the recruits will be able to work by themselves. By that time, we have lost another 4 people.

So, of the 20 people who started the hiring process 9 months ago, we will actually only put 18 employees in place. During that time, we will have lost 22 employees.

If half of them elect to test to become Patrol deputies, we would put 9 into Field Training. Of those, at best, 6 or 7 would pass everything and become fully qualified patrol deputies. For those employees to become Patrol Deputies it will be at minimum another 9-12 months, during which time we will have lost another at least 21 people.

Further, at any given time, we average 30 people on short and long term disability, modified duty, light duty, military leave, FMLA, workers compensation and other situations who are not available to perform their primary duties. This is also taken into account when we plan our hiring cycles and over hire needs. In a Law Enforcement organization, we cannot simply carry on without those people; if we are short it impacts both officer and more importantly, citizen safety.

I understand there has been some concern directed towards your news agency regarding the possibility of layoffs soon after Sheriff Maketa leaves office. I can assure you, there is absolutely no reason or justification to be concerned about that. Our 2014 budget supports the new hires without any additional funding and the referenced Colorado law supports the hiring.

In fact, with 1A monies, we are actually underspending $924,240.13, which would allow us to hire another 40 deputies this year IN ADDITION to the 20 who started on August 18th. As our organizational chart shows, we are currently short 23 people in the Patrol Division. We have a group just about to finish Field Training, which will then allow for us to take another group of candidate transfers from the jail.

This is not a new process for us and we have been doing it with the full knowledge and support of the County administrations going back to 1997. In fact, our recruit pay is 10% less than Deputy III pay to assist with funding the over hires.

I hope this sheds some light on the hiring process for you. It is a lengthy and exacting process that we will not compromise. We have very high standards as an agency and the processes detailed above help us ensure those high standards.

The responses to the CORA request questions are below.

1.  The total number of personnel the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is authorized to staff.

We are currently authorized to staff 785 personnel. Of those, 603 are General Fund, 131 are 1A, 39 are Restricted and 12 are “Frozen” giving the total Office-wide of 785.

2.  The current personnel number at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

We currently have 799 employees. (As a note, in the few days it has taken to compile this information, we went from 800 to 799 employees.)

3.  The number of new hires attending the new academy scheduled to begin in August.

We currently have 20 people attending the Academy that started on August 18th.

4.  Costs associated with training and paying (salary and benefits) the new hires. This should include the cost of testing and background checks.

Recruit class 14-2 will cost, including salary and benefits, $424,189.24. There is no record of costs associated with testing and background checks as we do all of those, including psychological and CVSA, in house, using current EPSO employees. 

Regarding the CORA Request: 

1.  The EPSO Organizational Chart showing all the FTE's (full-time employees) positions in your organization.

Our organizational chart is attached. Also attached is the redacted roster of employees who are not on full duty status.

2.  The list and total number of authorized or budgeted strengths (which positions are authorized and how many are budgeted for)

Documented above and in the org chart.

3.  The list and total number of actual strengths - how many employees the department currently has on staff, including civilians.

Documented above and in the org chart.

I believe this will answer both of the CORA requests you sent in. If you have any further questions, please let me know.

 EPSO Organizational Chart

 Redacted Roster of Employees