This was first published by the Record Courier, June 9th, 2017
I enjoyed the enlightening letter provided by Mary Ellen Conaway regarding the cost saving impact volunteers of the Sheriff’s department provide to the taxpayers of Douglas County. Our Sheriff’s Department truly has a very strong volunteer program deserving of recognition.
A vital part of that volunteer program the writer omitted was the Reserve Deputy Sheriff program, which contributes critical support to the Jail and Patrol Divisions. These individuals work side by side with the full time deputies, and share the same risk exposure in the field as their counterparts. In fact, Reserve Deputy Sheriff Edward Ronald Callahan was the last Douglas County law enforcement officer to sacrifice his life in the line of duty for this department and community on May 24, 1998. I proudly served for 15 years as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for Douglas County, and commend those Reserves volunteering their time and service to our Community.
Ms. Conaway cites a lack of competitive wages as one factor in the abnormal turnover of late within the Department, but that is only one reason why deputies go elsewhere. Poor supervision or leadership is one of the most important factors affecting an employee’s decision to stay or leave a job. It's said that “People do not leave jobs, they leave managers”. Also, we can't exclude inadequate training or equipment or inadequate recognition in considering reasons for abnormally high turnover.
Lack of career growth or additional opportunities for advancement can be a contributing factor when considering the size of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. Agencies larger than DCSO benefit because of the multiple opportunities they can provide a deputy interested in “moving up”.
Any serious diagnostic of turnover problems should begin with a “Climate Survey” which would solicit employee opinions on the quality of the work environment. Further, extensive exit interviews need to be conducted of departing employees.
To determine the extent of the problem, a staffing analysis and a review of average turnover rates should be conducted. A staffing analysis is a proactive measure to determine the current and future number of deputies required to serve the needs of the community. Benchmarking average turnover rates to the current activity can help better determine the scope of the problem, and the requisite response by the law enforcement agency.
Estimating anticipated vacancies, planned or unplanned, must be part of the analysis. Planned attrition includes individuals who are known to be leaving within the next 18 months, including retirements.
During my tenure as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff in Douglas County, I had the privilege of working beside extremely dedicated and talented individuals, some of whom have since left the department.
I share Mary Ellen Conaway’s concern that our Sheriff’s department has become a “training ground for other counties”.
David J Brady
Douglas County Republican Central Committee
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