The Deputy Shuffle: Smoke Screen on Staffing Shortages
On April 13, 2023, I became a candidate for Orange County Sheriff and launched the campaign website; MOOREFORSHERIFF.COM. My campaign platform has three major areas and one of them is Administrative & Operational Efficiency. The ultimate goal, the mission: reduce violent crime and lesser gateway crimes to provide for a safer Orange County. One approach will not fix the crime problem. A coordinated and well-orchestrated effort will move us closer to fulfilling this mission.
I recognized years ago that crime, violent crime, or any other crime, will not be kept in check until one thing is done: hire more deputy sheriffs and support staff. According to the latest Census, the population of metropolitan Orlando has substantially increased over the past decade. Yet, the agency is operating at less than adequate staffing.
The Sheriff has tip-toed around this fact throughout his entire tenure as Sheriff. Instead, the “learned” band-aid approach continues. Hire the bare minimum and maintain the status quo, without rocking the boat. It’s no wonder that Waterford Lakes residents are circulating an online petition to get additional patrols in their neighborhood; See the petition here: https://chng.it/FVsTjPd6KV.
I also recognized the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was in dire need of organizational restructuring and round-the-clock enforcement, to include weekends. The daily news reports of violent crime and resident complaints on social media surely demonstrate this need, for many years now. Long before OCSO informed employees of organizational changes, my campaign platform addressed organizational restructuring for the purpose of achieving maximum enforcement and investigative efficiency.
Anyone knows that employees may experience stress when feeling overwhelmed with work and unappreciated by their superiors. Moreover, it’s crucial to avoid losing your top performers and exacerbating your staffing shortage. In light of the agency’s current staffing dilemma, prioritizing the enhancement of employee morale in understaffed situations is vital. Both deputies and civilian employees must feel valued, which will likely result in increased productivity, engagement, and collaboration. Ultimately, employees are more likely to be happier, exert greater effort, and deliver work of higher quality.
As Sheriff, my approach to organizational restructuring would simultaneously focus on the real problem, the need for adequate staffing throughout the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and adjust shift times for units to address violent crime and “gateway” crimes. Only as a last resort do we need to merge units and reassign personnel. The focus needs to be on hiring more deputy sheriffs, keeping in mind that more deputies will need more support staff. Employees need relief now and that comes as additional workers – across the board. Our current situation didn’t happen suddenly, and it will require time to make the necessary corrections and get back on track. Here are my thoughts on the next immediate steps to address staffing shortages and combat crime:
1. Request the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to increase in “Authorized Strength” levels for deputy sheriffs and provide additional funds for those new deputy positions.
2. Request the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to increase in “Authorized Strength” levels for civilian Recruiting Unit positions and provide additional funds for those new civilian Recruiting Unit positions. Alternatively, remove and reclassify existing job postings and salaries to allow for the new civilian Recruiting Unit positions.
3. Expand and increase staffing of the OCSO Recruiting Unit and Training Unit to allow for expedited processing of qualified deputy sheriff applicants.
4. Establish an in-house OCSO Police Academy, supplementing existing police academy instruction provided across the region by community colleges, and output trained deputies faster.
5. Utilize existing large classrooms, Firearms Range, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operation (LEVO) Training facilities for the in-house OCSO Police Academy.
6. Utilize existing OCSO and other FDLE trained and certified instructors in the in-house OCSO Police Academy.
7. Increase monetary incentives to become and participate as a Field Training Officer in the Field Training Evaluation Program (FTEP) to get trained probationary deputy sheriffs on solo-patrol faster.
8. Encourage the Orange County Public School District to either hire more OCPS Police Officers or fully reimburse OCSO monetarily for providing deputies as School Resource Officers.
9. Encourage the Orange County Public School District to utilize the statutory provided solution to use “Guardians” to supplement the School Resource Officer requirement, S.R.O.’s to be present at each school campus.
10. Stop creating management positions or filling management vacancies for units that have no immediate benefit to the agency, rank of Lieutenant and above.
11. Change shift hours for specialty law enforcement units, i.e., work weekends to reduce crime.
12. Only merge law enforcement units when necessary, trying the least disruptive solutions first.
13. Address the immediate need and hire qualified applicants to fill the Communications Center vacancies for call takers, dispatchers, teletype operators, etc. Existing staffing is severely deficient and a safety issue; both for deputies and dispatchers.
14. Show employees they are valued and monetarily reward them for referring applicants who are hired into a vacant position. Make it a contest and recognize their efforts within the agency and publicly.
As you can see, the first step to serving and protecting the public revolves around adequate staffing. While this list is not exhaustive, it does provide you with my mindset on the problems. Suggestions on what could be added to this list are always welcome. Now, compare the approach by Sheriff Mina and Undersheriff Canty. No solution is provided for increasing staffing at the agency, just a deputy shuffle.
Current Administration’s Approach
On May 10, 2023, at 4:20PM, Undersheriff Canty sent out an agency-wide email informing Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies and civilian employees of, guess what, organizational restructuring. The idiom of “A day late and a dollar short” comes to mind. It is also notable this restructuring is occurring as an election looms in the coming year and citizens from various neighborhoods are irate about the increase in crime.
This new iteration of organization restructuring does the following with unit reassignment and merging taking effect May 28, 2023:
• Freeze on civilian positions with some ability to fulfill requests “after” approval and other civilian positions evaluated based on “operational necessity.”
• Evening Traffic Unit will merge into the four Motor Squads and Aggressive Driving Squad. Evening Traffic Unit “frozen as a squad.”
• Criminal Investigative Division “…reorganized to focus on violent crime” by creating four (4) Violent Crime Squads; each on a 4 day – ten-hour shift from 0700-0300, investigating violent crimes except homicide, sex crimes, domestic crimes, and child abuse. Existing Felony Squad III members will be administratively transferred to the Violent Crime Squads and “frozen as a unit.”
• Criminal Investigative Division Sector Property Squads (except Sector 6) will be designated a General Investigative Squads investigating property crimes, non-domestic misdemeanor offenses, “…such as battery, assault, stalking, etc.”
• Tactical Units (TAC 3, TAC 4, Evening Traffic Unit, Felony Squad III “…will remain frozen until staffing levels stabilize.”
What does this mean to you, the resident or business owner?
First, the consolidation of these divisions and units means one thing. There aren’t enough deputies to investigate crime.
Second, the detectives in the Criminal Investigative Division’s Property Section will be further strained to investigate more than property crimes. This means the burglary to your home or car may be triaged out of being investigated based on arbitrary thresholds, take longer to get assigned, and take longer to solve. Ultimately, causing the criminal to escape justice and potential restitution for damages.
Third, the merging of units only makes squads look bigger in numbers – on paper. It’s a smoke screen that only gives the appearance of action to solve the crime problem. Do you believe merging the Evening Traffic Unit and Aggressive Driving Squad will stop the constant reckless driving and intersection takovers?
Finally, freezing civilian positions in any fashion is counterproductive. If you need more funds, go back to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, OR, stop creating managment positions that increase payroll expense and aren’t immediately necessary. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office needs more support staff, especially in all aspects of the recruiting process.
Currently, there are employment opportunities for:
911 Emergency Communications Specialist I
Automotive Technician, I, II, or III
Civilian Part-Time Background Investigator
Criminal Process Technician I
HRD Senior Analyst – Compensation
Investigative Analyst I
IT Specialist IV – Exchange Administrator
IT Specialist IV – Senior Business Intelligence Analyst
Judicial Process Technician
A full list of employment opportunities can be found here: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/ocso?page=1