Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff Stan Sniff has mailed layoff notices to 800 full-time staffers and will begin implementing layoffs of deputies June 1 to help close budget gaps plaguing the county. The cuts could also cause reductions in jail operations.

With about 3,000 full-time employees, Riverside County is the state's second largest sheriff department behind Los Angeles County. The move is expected affect response times mostly in unincorporated areas of a county with about 450,000 residents, according to the sheriff.

If approved by the board of supervisors in June, over 500 full-time staff will be laid off starting July 1. The first wave of layoffs will involve 100 patrol and corrections deputies that will end their duties July 13. Nearly 800 notices will be required due to the complexity of the layoff process that includes seniority, bumping rights, reclassification, transfers-to-need assignments and notification sequences.

The cuts are not as drastic as those suggested by the county's chief executive officer. Sheriff Sniff told the board of supervisors on April 4 that sheriff's operations would be "cratered" if the board approved the CEO's recommended budget for the sheriff that recommended cuts of as much as $60 million for the coming fiscal year to a sheriff with a $10 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in June.

"We will professionally make the best of whatever outcome occurs, but we all understand that the budget reflects the public's priority on how their taxpayer dollars are allocated and spent," according to a statement by Sheriff Sniff.

If the chief executive's cuts were fully implemented, the patrol levels in unincorporated areas would reach 0.75 deputies per 1,000 residents. The cuts would also end the department's role on the gang and sexual predator task forces, close half of countywide drug teams that deal with dispensaries, reduce patrol aviation service hours, and mothball several patrol substations.

On the corrections side, 800 jail beds would be closed at the recently expanded Larry Smith Correctional Facility (LSCF), forcing many local agencies to book their inmates into the Riverside or Indio jail facilities. Riverside County's jail system would have to be reduced from 4,200 to 3,100 beds.

The department's county jail system is made up of five separate facilities, and currently has capacity for 3,900 inmates. The jail system serves all of the criminal justice agencies in the county and annually books 60,000 adults.

By Paul Clinton

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