Mahoney Highlights Recruitment Challenges

 

March 5, 2018



Sheriff David Mahoney has been “sounding the alarm” about recruiting and retaining qualified people for his office for the past two years.

In the past, he’s been asked whether he was “pushing the panic button.” Mahoney said he replied that he was not pushing the button but that his hand was basically resting on it.

Last week during the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Mahoney said he “was starting some downward pressure now.”

Mahoney’s comments were part of his semi-annual report on the trends, accomplishments, trends and goals his department has and is experiencing. As previously reported, each county government department has been presenting the reports. The Sheriff’s Office and the Register of Deeds were the last two departments to give reports.

Mahoney pointed to the recent national negative news coverage about some law enforcement activities as part of the reason it’s difficult to attract and keep qualified staff. He said experienced officers are deciding the career is “not worth it” and are pursuing something different.


It means that all law enforcement agencies, Mahoney said, are competing with one another for a “few precious applicants.”

On top of that, other law enforcement agencies are offering greater compensation and benefits, he said. The Sheriff’s Office is also training recruits, at some expense, and then losing them to other agencies. The Sheriff’s Office has recently lost eight officers to other law enforcement agencies and four to other industries, Mahoney said.

Brevard College offers a basic law enforcement training class. Out of 15 people who completed it, the Sheriff’s Office was only been able to hire one. While some of the 15 are from other areas and want to work in their home town or county, it shows, Mahoney said, the “difficulty” the Sheriff’s Office has in competing with other agencies.

Another factor is the dwindling pool of part-time staff at the Sheriff’s Office, causing the department’s overtime expenses to increase. Plus, Mahoney said, his department has a number of eligible retirees this year that could see as many as eight leaving.

“There is absolutely no way I can staff those positions with what we are doing currently,” he said.

Mahoney said the Brevard Police Department has had an open police officer position for almost a year. He said he’s heard the city may approve a “substantial pay increase” and he’s concerned the impact it may have on his department.


Complexity/Training

Another trend is the increasing “number” and “complexity” of criminal incidents, particularly in light of technological advancements, Mahoney said. Critical incidents requiring the Special Response Team’s involvement have increased as well. The team responded to nine incidents in 2016 and 20 last year.

Part of the news coverage, Mahoney said, is the focus on “decision making” by officers, and the discussion among law enforcement professionals is the type of training that should be undertaken.

Mahoney said his staff do a lot of fire-arms training and he said he’s “proud” of the proficiency shown in “use of force scenarios.”

But what law enforcement field doesn’t do, he said, is a lot of “scenario-based decision making training.”

How officers make “better decisions” is a growing question, he said, and the need for new and regular training for law enforcement personnel at all levels is ever increasing.

Equipment/Evidence/Incidents

Another issue is the “lifecycle of equipment.”

A few years ago, the Sheriff’s Office decided to use body cameras. That first wave of cameras is starting to have issues, such as the battery or cords.

The gun manufacturer Glock also suggests, Mahoney said, that certain parts of side arms should be replaced after five years. The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t done this but is looking at whether and when to replace some parts or whole weapons.

The Sheriff’s Office has seen a 19 percent increase in the amount of evidence it has collected and a 52 percent increase in the number of evidence disposals. Mahoney expects evidence amounts to continue to increase, while noting the importance of having evidence rooms that are well maintained, well documented and orderly.

Cases assigned to investigators increased from 585 in 2016 to 626 in 2017.

A breakdown of the case type shows 39 percent involving breaking and entering and/or larceny; 19 percent, fraud; 13 percent, death investigations; 10 percent, breaking and entering motor vehicles; 6 percent, damage to property; 5 percent, investigations involving children; 3 percent, larceny of motor vehicles; 3 percent, prison rape and 2 percent, sex crimes.

The average hours investigators spent investigating cases increased by 11 percent.

Crimes against children, Mahoney said, consume the most time for investigators.

The changing nature of crime has created a challenging environment for Sheriff’s Office investigators, Mahoney said, resulting in a higher case load, more time devoted to cases and an increase in the amount of evidence to manage.

Accomplishments

The Sheriff’s Office has the goal of keeping its response time to about 9 minutes or less.

This past year, Mahoney said, the department hit a record with an average response time just under 7 minutes.

Mahoney said they saw a slight increase in crime rate last year compared to the year before, but the county does “enjoy” one of the lowest crime rates in Western North Carolina.

It’s not an “accomplishment of the Sheriff’s Office,” he said, but “of the entire community.”

“There is just no way that the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office could do it on our own,” Mahoney said.

It requires “partnerships” with various boards and community members, he said.

Other department accomplishments included continuing to exceed the state and national averages for “clearance” of cases; and hosting another “citizens academy,” which is typically packed with people interested in knowing how the Sheriff’s Office operates. The program is held every September.

The Sheriff’s Office continues to house in the detention center inmates from other counties as part of the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program, bringing in additional revenues for the county. The program includes state inmates convicted of a misdemeanor, including DWI, and sentenced to more than 90 days in a county jail.

There has been a decrease in the numbers from other counties, which are looking to build or expand their own detention centers, but the numbers overall remain constant.

Mahoney also mentioned the Blue Line Foundation of Transylvania County, a nonprofit he founded aimed at helping the area’s youth through efforts such as the SHIELD Camp and DARE Camp.

As previously reported, Jack and Meriam Matthews donated a house and property on Lake Toxaway to the foundation. The sale of the house and property has led the foundation to be able to purchase a piece of property in Pisgah Forest and construction will begin this summer on a “permanent home” for the foundation.

Goals

Recruitment and retention are among the department’s goals. Mahoney plans to talk about increasing officer pay and incentives as a way to compete locally and regionally.

Mahoney also wants to add an additional investigator to alleviate the case load; purchase a tactical rescue vehicle to enhance emergency preparedness and response; provide additional comprehensive, advanced and specialized training to include scenario-based computerized simulation training; develop and implement a vital equipment replacement program; enhance the Sheriff’s Office’s awareness and understanding of the opportunities, challenges, strengths and needs of staff and the community through the use of data and analysis to make deputies and citizens safer.

Register of Deeds

Register of Deeds Cindy Ownbey also reported on her department’s accomplishments, trends and goals over the past six months.

Included among the department’s accomplishments: implementing a marriage kiosk, where applicants apply electronically but must appear in person to complete the process; beginning the next phase of the grantor-grantee index project, encompassing indexes for real estate transactions dating back to the county’s beginning; completing year two of the five-year preservation project, including releasing 14 books for preservation and received back 19 books because of the process; adding an additional e-recording partner; implementing a new server and legislative changes to maps; and adhering to Secretary of State changes for assumed business names.

Ownbey highlighted the following trends: continuing increased demand for electronic resources and the number of records being processed; and continuing improvement in revenue collections.

Department goals include continuing the grantor-grantee index project and preservation project; beginning the “Thank-A-Vet” software project; adding shelving to the record room to house additional books from the preservation project; and beginning and completing minor renovations to the customer service areas in the office.

More from the meeting will appear in Thursday’s paper.

 
 

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