Tehama County Sheriff Dave Hencratt addressed the Board of Supervisors during Tuesday’s meeting about his ears and concerns about his department due to low pay and benefits.
Starting his statement during the meeting’s public comment, the sheriff said he normally keeps his business to himself and believes others should do the same.
“However at this time, I feel the need to abandon my introverted philosophy, reach out of my own business and inform you all of what I am seeing,” he said.
Over the past two years, the sheriff’s department has seen a number of veteran and key employees, including deputies, sergeants, and captains, move on to higher paying law enforcement agencies.
Hencrat said another reason for addressing the board is that he believes it is his duty as the “Sheriff-Coroner, elected by the majority of citizens across the entire county, to inform our good citizens in a public forum, of the state of their Tehama County Sheriff’s Office.”
According to Hencratt, Tehama County sheriff’s employees’ morale is lower than he has ever seen in his 31-year career, saying, “many Tehama County Sheriff’s employees are seriously underpaid, and seriously underpaid compared to our surrounding allied and state and local agencies.”
Tehama County supervisors Bob Williams and Burt Bundy, who both cover county districts that cover Corning, said neither one of them could comment on what Hencratt had to say as the board is in labor negotiations with sheriff’s department employees at this time.
Hencratt shared that during the past nine years, he has been very particular in who he hires.
“We always start with the best candidates. All sworn recruits have to pass a rigorous background, psych exam and medical exam,” he said. “They must pass a training program and probationary period to become part of our organization. Not everyone makes it. If a recruit does not meet my expectations, I release them.
“The result of this process produces a quality employee. Continuing education, training, experience and time invested in our employee’s produces a highly trained, very wise, elite professional, that can handle virtually every situation or event imaginable.
“Consequently; this profession is very, very desirable to other allied, local, state and federal law enforcement organizations.”
The sheriff told the board, in spite of his best efforts to retain people, his department is losing, and will continue to lose, good people to agencies that pay more and have better benefits.
“Our loss is their gain,” he said. “The breaking point in the decision process of whether to stay here or move on is better pay and better benefits.”
According to an employee at the sheriff’s office, during recent contract negotiations with the county, sheriff’s deputies were asked to take a 3 percent decrease in their pay as the county is currently in deficit budget spending and seeking ways to balance the budget.
“A few weeks ago I was before your board and our good citizens, acknowledging the anniversary of a 20-year veteran sheriff’s office employee,” Hencratt said. “One of the statements I made at that time, recognized this long time employee and other employees who took time to be present at the ceremony; was something similar to ‘employee is part of a core group of employees, who hold the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office together and will continue to hold our office together, long after I am gone. Well, this core group is rapidly eroding.”
The sheriff went on to say that these are men and women who will sacrifice their lives, no questions asked and without a second doubt, for a stranger; in the ultimate effort to preserve order in society.
“Since being elected sheriff-coroner in 2010, I have hired 107 people. From 2016-2018, our agency has experienced a large number of employee turnover, 39 to be exact. We have lost people to normal attrition, such as retirement, a few retiring earlier than planned, but we have lost many, well-trained, professional employees to state and neighboring law enforcement agencies, which pay more and offer better benefits and incentives,” Hencratt added.
The sheriff then read a quote from a letter he recently received from a 15-year veteran, a Tehama County Sheriff’s sergeant, who began his career here and recently left to a police agency just north of us.
“The letter thanked several of us for playing a role in the development of his career. The letter closed with the following sentence, ‘So there is no rumor or error in it, I was tired of working for a county whose Board of Supervisors and CAO don’t care about its own employees,’” he said. “In full public disclosure, not all of our employees who have recently retired or left for other employment laid blame on your board, the CAO, or Tehama County’s financial crisis, which is presumed to cause reason for low wages, compared to other north state law enforcement agencies, and presumed to be the cause of impending employee concessions.
“One, and only one employee; who left our agency, blames myself and my administration for being ‘out of touch’ with the operation of the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office. The employee stated that myself and my administration were using our county’s poor financial status, resulting in not keeping up with wage parity compared to other north state law enforcement agencies; as an excuse for low morale and good people leaving our organization.”
Hencratt then reiterated that he believes the problem in the department is not the ability to hire good candidates, but the problem lies with retaining those good employees.
“The result of this negative impact, (which will be the loss of law enforcement services), will have a negative impact to the purpose of rural county law enforcement. That purpose is to serve the good citizens of our community,” he added. “Those good citizens and my fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters of the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, are who I answer to, and who I am standing up for in front of you and our public today,” he said.