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An outside consultant recommended Thursday that the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office hire more detention deputies to work in the jail and courthouse instead of using more expensive sworn deputies in those positions.

The recommendation was made in a 156-page study by Matrix Consulting Group. After a spike in overtime in the Sheriff’s Office a couple of years ago, the county had agreed to spend up to $100,000 for the study by the California company.

Sheriff Rich Stanek has repeatedly argued to the County Board that hiring more deputies would decrease the need for overtime. In his remarks Thursday, Stanek said the report backs up his position that the department needs to add 35 full-time-equivalent positions.

However, County Administrator David Hough said he will recommend that Stanek hire 20 “unsworn” civilian detention deputies this summer, primarily to work in the jail. Unsworn deputies, who require less training and do not carry guns, earn $38,700 in their first year. Sworn deputies earn $51,000.

Stanek also wants to add 16 detention deputies in early 2017. Hough, however, said not so fast, advising that the department see what happens with overtime costs next year.

Decisions about staffing and the 2016 budget will be made in the next few weeks. Although Stanek is elected countywide, the board controls much of his budget and oversees his office. At times, the sheriff has chafed at the lack of fiscal autonomy for his office, and there were moments at Thursday’s generally friendly two-hour meeting when discussions tilted toward tense.

Stanek, for example, didn’t enthusiastically embrace other staffing suggestions in the report designed to eliminate administrative duplication in areas such as technology, public affairs and finance.

On combining technology administration, for instance, he said, “We’re not opposed to that. We just would want to make sure the services are where they’re supposed to be.”

The sheriff emphasized that his office is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year operation, unlike many other county services.

Hough responded to the notion of combined efforts with the Sheriff’s Office, saying, “We can get there. We’ve done it with all our other departments.”

The report also recommended replacing sworn deputies who supervise the 911 call center with civilians.

In addition to using detention deputies at the jail, the report encouraged using more of them for security at Hennepin County District Court. The deputies escort inmates to and from the jail for court appearances. Current staffing levels have created delays in transferring inmates and thus delays in court schedules, the report said.

More discussion to come

Overall, the report was complimentary to the Sheriff’s Office, and careful to note its unusual structure. In his presentation, Matrix president Richard Brady said it is unlike others in the nation because Hennepin County municipalities have their own police departments. “The sheriff is really a coordinator,” he said.

The first question from the board came from Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who said he was “struggling” with the recommendation that the jail be run by detention rather than sworn deputies.

Brady responded that across the country, the general practice is to have detention deputies staff jails, while in Hennepin County, “we’ve got two different [job] classifications doing the same job.”

Hough and the commissioners who spoke, including Chairwoman Jan Callison, said the report was mostly a basis for beginning a discussion about the best use of resources.

Rochele Olson • 612-673-1747 @rochelleolson

Cutting costs

Replacing sworn deputies with detention deputies would mean substantial savings for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
Starting salaries, yearly:
Sworn deputy: $51,000
Civilian deputy: $38,700