SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — After four and a half years without a contract, an agreement was reached between the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Sheriff Association. It gives union members a six percent cost of living increase over the next three years.
People in Joaquin County said the agreement brings some relief. Many were happy to learn the Sheriff’s Office has reached a contract agreement with the union.
Some Mountain House residents hope this will eventually bring back the two deputies that were scaled back because of a shortage.
“I feel like Mountain House is pretty secure and I feel like they could be elsewhere,” Ricardo Rhodes told CBS13.
San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow credits the community for playing a key role in the contract negotiations.
“It was the public that, when we reached out and informed them of what was going on, took a stand, showed up at Board of Supervisors meetings, wrote letters and made phone calls and said ‘hey, look this is unacceptable,’” he said.
Right now, Withrow said the department is down by about 40 deputies.
“We’ve got some in the academy. About 10 deputies,” he said.
But he said more were threatening to leave if a contract wasn’t reached soon.
“We have about 20-30 deputies who let the DSA know they were looking at other agencies to get other jobs,” he added.
The shortage prompted the sheriff’s office to relocate two deputies in Mountain House. The town acted quickly; temporarily replacing them with security guards.
Sheriff Withrow said the shortage may have also contributed to deputies calling out to the San Joaquin County Courthouse in Stockton; prompting it to close for the day recently.
“My big question is: does that close the gap for not only competing counties but our competing agencies within the county?” asked San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti.
Patti said the new contract is a step in the right direction, but still has some reservations.
“I want to see how our contract compares with other agencies,” he said. “I’d (also) like this to be a strong foundation going forward of what we’re building off of. And learn some lessons so we don’t have to go four-plus years out of contract.”
The contract includes a 6% cost of living increase over three years and a longevity incentive for those on the force for seven, 10 and 20 years. Some employees’ pay will also pay more towards their health insurance and retirement costs. An agreement the Sheriff hopes will attract and retain deputies.
“Now when people look at our department, they won’t look at it like a department in turmoil. They’ll look at it like this is a place that I want to work,” said Withrow.
And one resident hopes it will improve public safety.
“We’re asking for our community to be patient with us as we work to solve this problem that’s been going on for years because of past administrations,” said Withrow. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Withrow said it takes about 13 months for an officer to go through the academy and get some additional training before they can go on patrol. He said it isn’t clear yet how the agreement will impact the sheriff shortage.
The union said it is pleased to reach an agreement, but disappointed it took this long.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and DSA are looking forward to the Board of Supervisors adopting the contract at its board meeting on October 22.