Kern detention deputies quitting, citing pay and OT problems

James Ashley, a former sergeant in the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Detentions Bureau, speaks Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, to Eyewitness News about what he says are overtime and pay problems, causing deputies to quit. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Some Kern County detention deputies are quitting their jobs and finding what they say are better paying positions in other counties. They say it boils down to a crisis in morale.

James Ashley was a sergeant in the Detentions Bureau, serving the Sheriff's Office for 28 years. But, in June he retired.

"In the past, people would leave because they reached their time and they left in a matter of celebration," Ashley said. "Now people are leaving it seems for better opportunities that once existed here."

He's one of at least eight detention deputies who have resigned or retired in the past few weeks, many fed up with mandatory overtime and what they say is lower pay, earning on average $27 an hour.

So far, 29 have left this year, and 30 left the year before, according to the Kern County Detention Officers Association. That's the group that represents detention deputies in legal defense and labor relations.

The Sheriff's Office has said it's only seen 27 leave and has 79 vacancies. But, the Sheriff's Office can only pay to fill 35 of them.

"Low staffing levels just continue to grow and grow and grow," said Julian Trevino, KCDOA vice president.

It's creating a crisis of morale, according to Ashley. He was tasked with assigning extra overtime to deputies, something he said became a burden.

"To tell them, 'I know you volunteered yesterday, but I'm ordering you to volunteer today to stay,' it sucks the life out of them," Ashley said. "People don't want to go to work because they don't know if they'll be able to leave at the end of their shift."

The Sheriff's Office said it hasn't given a pay raise in about 10 years, but contract negotiations are in progress.

Detentions deputies earn between $3,756 and $4, 585 per month, according to the Sheriff's Office. The department said its pay is comparable to what's offered in nearby counties, providing these statistics to Eyewitness News:

  • Fresno County detention deputy pay: $3,165 to $5,880
  • Kings County detention deputy pay: $3,361 to $4,761
  • Tulare County detention deputy pay: $4,551 to $5,546
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