Sheriff Vicki Hennessy has ordered all her deputies to work mandatory overtime until September because of an “extreme staffing shortage.” (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

SF sheriff orders mandatory overtime due to staffing shortage

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department jail population has been on the decline in recent years, but there still aren’t enough deputies to work in the county’s jails without authorizing overtime.

In fact, staff shortages have forced Sheriff Vicki Hennessy to order her 840 sworn deputies to work mandatory overtime until September, according to a May 19 memo titled “Declaration of Emergency” that was obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

The memo, which Hennessy acknowledged last week in a phone interview, states that every deputy must work 12 hours of overtime and managers must work eight per pay period so that minimal staffing levels can be met because of the “extreme staffing shortage.”

Fully staffed, the department would have 915 deputies.

Hennessy said that in the past, volunteers have come forward to fill the gap when there are expected staffing shortages, such as during the holidays or over the summer.

“I am ordering them to work, if not [we’ll] learn what will happen if they don’t,” she said, adding that this is the first time the department has had to mandate overtime since she was elected sheriff in 2015.

But she has had to cancel some deputies’ days off during winter holidays.

The order will stand until Sept. 8, but Hennessy expects by next summer to hire deputies for the dozens of unfilled sworn full-time positions.

“Next summer we’re going to be in a much better place,” she said. “For now, we’re struggling.”

The order is due to a lack of new hires in recent years, and will cost The City a pretty penny. In fact, the department’s budget ask for overtime increased by 22 percent compared to last year, according to the Budget Analyst’s Office.

In the current fiscal year 2016-17, the department budgeted for $12 million, but they overspent and overtime reached a total of $23 million, which is 22 percent higher than the previous fiscal year’s overtime cost of $19 million.

Those extra funds — $11 million — were repurposed from unspent salaries and other funds because of vacant positions.

The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, which Hennessy said has filed a number of complaints in the past year because of the overtime issue, did not return a call for comment.

The issue of overtime spending has been a problem at least the past eight years, mostly because of a freeze in new academy classes following the recession. Since then, the empty positions have been filled with an escalating overtime budget.

“Since fiscal year 2013-14, sheriff overtime expenditures have increased by approximately $13.6 million, or 130 percent,” according to the budget analyst report.

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