Support for local law enforcement was on the streets of Quincy and in the Plumas County Courthouse Sept. 5 as educators and citizens deplored to a dramatic reduction in Sheriff’s Department patrols.
Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns eliminated the traditional two daily patrol shifts, one day and one night shift, on Aug. 30. Instead, deputies will patrol from noon to 10 p.m. in a single 10-hour shift.
That leaves the county without on-the-street law enforcement for 14 hours a day, from 10 p.m. until noon.
Opponents of the cuts held a small demonstration outside the courthouse, then brought their signs into the Board room to join a standing-room-only crowd.
“It’s unacceptable for the safety of our children,” said Bill Roderick, superintendent of the Plumas Unified School District.
Addressing the Plumas County Board of Supervisors during the public comment period, Roderick said the geographic size of Plumas County already means teachers, parents and students have a long wait for a response when they contact the Sheriff’s Department. Now no deputies are on shift for half our school days, he said.
“Students can’t learn when they don’t feel safe,” Roderick said.
“Students can’t learn when they don’t feel safe.” Roderick said.Bill Roderick, Plumas Unified School District superintendent
Johns blamed wages for Plumas County deputies and jail staff for the reductions. They are among the lowest in California, he said. That has cut staffing levels for dispatchers by 50 percent. The jail has 13 of its 23 positions filled, and five deputy positions are either vacant or temporarily unfilled due to injuries, said Johns.
The lack of on-duty deputies is already taking a toll. Over the weekend, Quincy resident Susan Henderson endured a dangerous situation alone at 2 a.m. that put her life in serious jeopardy, she told the supervisors.
“You have allowed this to happen… because you are not dealing with your budgets and finances. It’s not okay,” said Henderson, who described herself as an individual citizen and a single woman.
Board Chairman Greg Hagwood said public safety is the supervisors’ number one priority.
“We have to act quickly and decisively to remedy this problem… It is completely unacceptable to have citizens and visitors not feeling safe and secure in our county,” Hagwood said.
Feather River College President Kevin Trutna also expressed concern over the reduction in local law enforcement. College students get active during the hours after the patrols stop, he said: “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”
“Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”Kevin Trutna, Feather River College president
The college is providing its own campus patrols, Trutna said.
Plumas Bank officials are among the local businesses alarmed over the deputy patrols, said Johns.
To provide some additional protection, he is working with the California Highway Patrol (CHP). If the Sheriff’s Departments gets a “hot call” in Chester and has no deputy on duty there, Johns contacts the Chester CHP to respond. He has similar arrangements with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service.
“I will call the world if it’s a bad enough situation,” Johns said.
If the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department were forced to close, state statutes require the CHP to respond to calls, Johns said. Under that worst case scenario, office workers would by law be paid $113 per hour and sergeants $138 an hour, he said. The current wage for a dispatcher is $18.98 per hours and $21.52 an hour for deputies, Johns said.
“I certainly hope we won’t get to that point,” he said.
Hagwood said the Board of Supervisors is working with the Sheriff’s Department to remedy “this very troubling set of circumstances.”