Some employees of the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office had plenty to say about their department’s salaries at the June 6 County Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Speaking in Call to the Public, they described how their department is the largest law enforcement agency in the county, but they have the lowest wages. They said the low pay hurts morale, and many deputies and others have left the department for higher-paying jobs elsewhere. This means they have a dangerous situation because of so many inexperienced employees.

 

There were suggestions that money spent on training new employees would be better spent trying to retain the people they already have.

 

In response to direct criticism of the Board, District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor, the Board Chairperson, said the county has been run poorly for a long time, and every department is going through a similar situation. He added his appreciated the work law officers do. He said the Board needed to hold a work session on this matter with Sheriff Will Ponce and his staff.

 

The first to speak was C.J. Markel. He said the department’s pay does not match the stress the employees face. He said he’s researched other counties, and they all pay more than La Paz. He noted that, of the 30 detention officers when he started, only six remain. He said it’s dangerous to have untrained and inexperienced detention officers. He added that increasing salaries would increase morale and employee retention.

 

Whitney Lopez, a 911 dispatcher, said she has worked for the department for four years. She has seen 10 people leave due to the low pay. She also has to work overtime to make up for employee shortages. She said she makes the same salary as beginning dispatchers, but she’s expected to train them.

 

If the pay was higher, Lopez said the county would likely not have to spend so much on overtime.

 

“We are professionals,” she said. “I feel myself and my colleagues should be compensated accordingly.”

 

Lopez’s husband, Eddie, stated he used to work for the La Paz Sheriff’s Office, but left due to the low pay.

 

Ricardo Rodriguez said good pay was important for retaining employees. He added that low pay hurts morale and sends deputies and other employees to other departments where they can make more money.

 

Dispatch Supervisor Maribel Villafana said employees were overworked and underpaid. She said she’s been made offers to work elsewhere, but she is loyal and doesn’t want to work anywhere else.

 

Christel Merritt spoke from a prepared statement. She said she had been promised a raise, but that raise was lowered from what she was told it would be. She said the Board of Supervisors rejected her pay increase.

 

Merritt said she feels she and other employees are being taken advantage of. Given how the cost of living has increased in the last year, she said Sheriff’s employees have effectively taken a pay cut on their salaries. She said the stress has her feeling the sense of drowning, and she added she knows there are other jobs in the county that pay more for starting pay than she receives after 12 years at the Sheriff’s Office.

 

Merritt said this was difficult for her as she’s not the sort of person who complains or makes a fuss.

 

“I just feel like I need to be transparent on how I am feeling and to stand up for myself on what I think is right and what I deserve,” she said.

 

After first asking Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Ryan Dooley if he could respond to criticism of the Board, Minor addressed Merritt directly. He said the Board did not turn down her pay increase. Knowing she would bring it up at the meeting, Minor said he researched it and could not find it on any of the Board’s meetings.

 

“It was not on any of the previous agendas,” he said.

 

Minor said the county has been run poorly for a long time, and all departments are expected to do their part to help the financial situation. The Sheriff’s Office was not alone in low wages.

 

“It’s happening with every department,” Minor said. “We can’t support a budget beyond our means.”

 

Minor said the Sheriff’s Office has been “top heavy” with management for some time.

 

Saying he appreciated what law officers do, Minor said he wanted a work session with the Sheriff’s Office to discuss salaries. He added this was the best approach to the matter.

 

District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin said she also wanted to hold a work session with the Sheriff.

 

“My husband is in law enforcement,” she said. “I get it.”

 

In her events summary, County Administrator Megan Spielman said she would set up a work session with the Sheriff.

 

Ponce expressed his concern with his department’s low pay in an email to the Parker Pioneer. He said La Paz County cannot compete with other surrounding communities that pay their law officers more. He said he feared the county would soon not have enough deputies to effectively patrol the county, or detention officers to run the jail.

 

“While we understand the financial struggles the County faces, it cannot be expected that the employees bear the weight of the mismanagement and bad financial decisions the County has made,” Ponce said. “We cannot expect employees to have a sense of loyalty when that loyalty is not reciprocated. Each day we see and hear the frustration from our employees as we continue to ask them to do more with less. In good conscience, I can no longer do this when I know that our county continues to turn a blind eye to the public safety crisis that we are in.”

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(15) comments

sam whittemore

fold up the whole shebang. biggest criminal gang there is , is law enforcement. yall gonna raise taxes on us to pay for you? no agency on the planet exists for its citizens.they exist as praetorian guards to their masters. its that paycheck and pension baby!

daddynewsom

this is not as important as J6 committee hearings, please re-direct your full and effective attention to the latest media scam

sam whittemore

the PP is always waaaay behind the curve of the CURRENT THING. washed up boomers cant keep up with the times.

wingnut

Excuse me Sam, this boomer has been in law enforcement since 1997. I can run circles around you any day of the week.

wingnut

We all pay taxes Sam!!! If raising taxes is what it comes to, even law enforcement personnel pays the very same taxes you pay for their own wages. They agencies you claim aren’t worth the money are the very ones you call 911 for!!! So remember that when you or a loved one are having a medical emergency. Or your neighbors are shooting at each other during a domestic assault. They’re the ones who answered your 911 call and their officers put their lives on the line to respond.

sam whittemore

wingnut, ur name fits. i dont call 911 i handle my own problems. public safety is a farce. all of govt is a farce. not one thing they do right. except theft by taxation. all LE does is protect their masters, their paychecks and pension. they dont work off of whats right or wrong. they operate off the illegal legal scam. there are 2 kinds of cops. the bad ones, and the rest that go along with it. youre part of the problem. boomer scum aint helping you either.

sam whittemore

by the way, you slick sleeve boot, i got on in 1983. take 1997 and put it in yer crack pipe.

sam whittemore

you say youre a boomer and you got on in 97? at age 50ish? lololololz! do you have any idea of the birthdate years for boomers?

ORLY

It never ceases to amaze me how everyone misses the major problem with La Paz Sheriff's pay. Starting salaries for Detention and Dispatch are definitely low, but the starting salaries for the Deputies is actully cometitive with other small sheriff's offices.

The problem is the lack of step increases! Let me repeat, the problem is lack of step increases!

Two rookies get hired before the academy, one with La Paz Sheriff, one with Parker PD. They attend the same academy class, same age, same experience level. They graduate and go work for their departments.

3 years go by. 3 years of experience, raising the value of that officer / deputy. The Parker PD Office has received yearly step increases in his pay. The La Paz Deputy is STILL making what a starting Deputy makes. 3 more years go by. The Parker Officer is making even more from those step increases. The La Paz Deputy is STILL making exactly the same as a Deputy fresh out of the academy.

And we are surprised what that La Paz Deputy has had enough and laterals to Parker PD, and instantly gets a huge raise?

The County says they cannot afford the steps. Yet, when they do hire laterals from other Departments, they hire them at the appropriate step for their experience. A lateral joining La Paz with 6 years experience gets started at Step 6. A Deputy who started with La Paz and worked all 6 years with La Paz? They are still only making Step 1.

Its like they are punishing cops who stay with the Department and DON"T leave.

That's the problem (at least for the Deputies.) Actually use the yearly pay step system, boost everyone to the step appropriate for their years of experience, and BAM, problem solved.

sam whittemore

i amazed, that i am amazed, that you think this is the problem. grab yerself a burger and go back to the tv.

sam whittemore

all ya gotta do there ORLY, is show up at the next BoS admiration society meeting, and tell them to give free step raises to everyone! double extra rations! just like stimmy money! everyone knows when ya run outta tax money, ya just go to the basement and get the 55 gallon drums full of more tax money!

wingnut

I agree that’s what they should of gone back to after that Yakima law suit. I see every four years the pay for the board members just keep going up. 120K a year for what???? How about they just take a cut in their salaries? The nerve of Duce to say we’re all feeling the crunch in the economy. Not when you’re pulling in 120K a year.

rjhartless

I was going to stay out of this particular fray, but who told you the Supes make $120,000 a year?? It's more like $65,000. And the state legislators determine that salary.

sam whittemore

wingnut, move back to cali.

sam whittemore

65k a year for stupe pay? lol. sweet gig. no definable product. no measurable output. no accountability. just gotta get the idiot voters to buy wat yer sellin to em.....and they do!

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