Deputies at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a new contract in place after the Kern Law Enforcement Association narrowly voted to approve the county’s proposal, the union announced late Wednesday.
The new contract will result in a range of salary increases for deputies and their supervisors, but some in the union remained opposed to the offer put forward by county officials, saying the county did not do enough to meet the needs of all Sheriff’s Office employees.
“It’s a very complex proposal, but at the end of the day it divided us in half,” said KLEA President Richard Anderson. “We had issues and we wanted to fix them, and for whatever reason they were not fixed.”
A total of 230 union members voted in favor of the one-year contract, with 200 voting against, according to KLEA.
Anderson said many of those who voted against the contract did so in solidarity with a contingent of veteran deputies who will receive much lower raises than the rest of the union.
“We don’t leave our guys behind,” he said. “That was the feeling. We’re cops. We stick together. We’re brothers.”
While entry-level deputies may see pay increases of about 10 percent, certain veteran deputies will see raises of only about 1 percent.
Earlier this year, the county increased the salaries of entry-level deputies by 18.5 percent to improve recruitment. The new raises for entry-level deputies will boost their salaries even further.
The veteran deputies — 54 in total plus four investigators with the county District Attorney's Office — were already receiving a 4 percent salary bonus by meeting certain fitness measures.
In the new contract, the county eliminated the fitness bonuses, which were only obtained by about half of union members, and automatically inserted fitness pay into base salaries.
Veteran deputies who were already receiving the fitness pay will not see the increase in salary, however. And they have worked for the department for too many years to see the pay increases newer employees will receive.
“They are unhappy because they’ve waited a long time for some type of compensation,” Anderson said. “(The contract) fixed the recruitment issue, it just didn’t fix the retention issue.”
The new contract brings the Sheriff’s Office within pay parity with the Bakersfield Police Department and is viewed as a key step forward by both KLEA and county officials.
“Both KLEA and the county certainly have the same mindset, and that is to ensure that our deputies are fairly compensated when it comes to the local market,” said Kern County Chief Human Resources Officer Devin Brown. “Increasing the entry level salaries of deputies this past year has already started a trend of improvement in the Sheriff’s Office ranks. This certainly will continue that trend, and go a long ways of reducing turnover to a manageable level.”
The new contract also includes a $10,000 recruitment bonus for deputies, spread over four years, and four additional paid holidays.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the contract Sept. 17. It would retroactively go into effect on Sept. 14.
The county and the union will need to begin negotiating another contract soon, as the new contract will expire in 2020.
“Recruitment of law enforcement personnel is a nationwide issue, and Kern County isn’t unique in being challenged in finding quality candidates in its positions,” Brown said. “So we will definitely have to keep our eye on this for some time, and continue to find new ways to improve that type of employment for potential candidates so it’s attractive.”