The County Board of Supervisors heard a performance overview of the County Sheriff’s Office from KPMG during their meeting Tuesday, which gave recommendations for improved efficiency in the law enforcement body for years to come.
KPMG conducted a review of the Sheriff’s Office to identify strengths and highlight areas for improvement in the realms of efficiency and effectiveness. After conducting their review from February 2020 through the summer, the firm developed 16 areas of improvement for the office.
In brief, these recommendations include expanding demand-driven staffing approaches across the office, leveraging existing data to improve operational monitoring, expanding diversionary pathways for 911 callers and pre-trial felons and improving data tracking and management of overtime hours.
During the meeting, Supervisors and Sheriff’s Office personnel alike discussed the need for improved technology in the Sheriff’s Office to better manage data. KPMG representatives said the office is “data-rich, but information poor” without an up-to-date tracking system. One of the firm’s key recommendations was upgrading computer systems and hiring a data analyst to organize the data.
“One of the challenges to the Sheriff’s Office is the antiquated records management system currently in use,” Cmdr. Darren Fotheringham said in response to the report. “I’m happy to report that the replacing of that system with a new system is currently in process as of the date of this meeting, the upgrade is in progress and on schedule.”
KPMG also acknowledged the need for better sorting of 911 calls, noting that the majority of calls are “low priority.” The firm also analyzed the response time in various areas of the county, noting that in the unincorporated areas, response times were high.
“This (response time) underscores the need for alternative means for handling low-priority calls to prevent long and avoidable drive times by deputies and long wait times for citizens for low-priority calls,” Alex Rothman of KPMG said during the meeting.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a zero bail rule was adopted by the California Judicial Council, which allowed minor offenders to be quickly released without paying bail. The KPMG report noted that this helped to decrease the prison population during the pandemic, providing the Sheriff’s Office with the opportunity to “reevaluate jail staffing at the unit and shift levels,” Mr. Rothman said.
The Sheriff’s Office agreed to the majority of the firm’s recommendations, pledging to address solutions in the coming year.
“We have been committed to efficiency for many years in the Sheriff’s Office, and we have taken numerous steps with the technology and human resources arenas to make our organization more efficient and more effective,” Sheriff Bill Brown said.
As police reform drew the interest of the nation during the summer of 2020, members of the board commended the Sheriff’s Office for its openness to change during this challenging time. Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart called the sheriff’s move towards reform the “building blocks” for the change the local community is desiring to see.
First District Supervisor Das Williams also voiced appreciation for the feedback from KPMG and the comments from the Sheriff’s Office, noting the need for partnership between the board and the office moving forward.
“The stakes are really high,” Mr. Williams said. “If we don’t adapt and reinvent our public safety from a community and fiscal perspective, we will not adequately serve the public together as partners.”