Kern County Sheriff's Office faces staff shortages

Law enforcement union says department is 20% understaffed

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The Kern Law Enforcement Association says the sheriff's department is currently about 20 percent understaffed.

"We're in a crisis. if people don't believe we're there yet, we're on the brink of it," said David Kessler, President of the KLEA.

A critical time for the Kern County Sheriff's Office, where staffing is dangerously low.

According to the KLEA, the sheriff's department is funded for 600 deputies across the county.

They are currently operating 121 deputies short however with new hires not available for months. 

Kessler says KCSO is hemorrhaging staff, leaving for better jobs.

"A lot of people are leaving for better working conditions, more money. They can stay within the same county, live here, not uproot their family and make more money by going to Shafter PD, Bakersfield Police Department...we're losing them to everywhere. 

Kessler adds some deputies are working 16 hour shifts back to back. And sergeants are filling in for deputies's jobs.

The entry level salary for deputies starts at around $3,756 before taxes a month. Shafter Police Department confirmed to 17 news that its been successful in wooing county officials due to more favorable packages. 

The fear county residents have? When they call for help, will someone respond?

"When someone calls 9-1-1 they should expect the deputy to respond in a timely manner. When people are sleeping at night they should expect the deputy patrolling their streets. And some area's don't have that right now," explained Kessler.

Kessler says some nights, the areas of Rosamond, Boron, Tehachapi, and Mojave have only two deputies patrolling expansive areas.

"We'd like to see how the sheriff plans on addressing some of these issues, and how they communicate with the public. The public should know that there are definitely areas out there with no law enforcement patrols some hours of the day, and that could be scary for people," said Kessler.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood and County Supervisor Mick Gleason addressed the matter at a town hall in Lake Isabella.

Sheriff Youngblood declined comment prior to speaking to the public, but acknowledged to those in attendance that 9-1-1 calls could take up to 90 minutes to respond in remote areas.

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