Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chairman Manny Ruiz says too many of Sheriff Tony Estrada's deputies are leaving, in part, because of morale issues in the department. However, Sheriff Estrada says if there is a morale issue, it is one the Board of Supervisors has created by not allowing him to hire staff.
This week the Board of Supervisors tabled an agenda item this week that would have allocated money for Estrada to hire another lieutenant, which is an administrative role.
“That position has been vacant since September of 2015,” Estrada said. “The board has held us hostage, as far as I’m concerned, with regards to that position.”
Estrada says he has received conflicting reasons from the board as to why it won’t allow him to fill the role. He says previously the board, namely, Ruiz, cited the economy as the primary reason, but now Ruiz says low patrol staff levels are the issue.
The chairman says the board should not give Estrada another administrator until he can fill his patrol staff positions.
“You know, the sheriff had claimed ‘Oh they're going because there's more money,’ but a few of the people I’ve talked to personally have said there were some issues they were concerned with and money wasn't really the ultimate issue,” Ruiz said he wants more "boots on the ground" before the county pays for an administrative position.
“Administration plays an important part to the morale of officers and sometimes the biggest issue they leave because of is morale,” Ruiz said.
Estrada says when his deputies leave it is usually for departments with more staffing. Estrada says there if there is a morale problem it is not his fault.
“The concern that all the officers have is we're undermanned,” Estrada said. “They don't have the time off that they should. They can't ask for a vacation when they would like because we just don’t have the numbers to put out on the road. So, if that is a morale problem then it is on their side. “It’s on the board’s side because they're the ones creating this situation.”
The board asked Estrada to present to them a plan to recruit and retain more deputies at its next meeting in June. Estrada says he intends to do so.