The massive cuts to law enforcement expected this summer are not going to affect police service in the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar, but questions still remain over how thinly spread deputies might be in the surrounding unincorporated area.
“We won't give out the detail of that breakdown of information until further along in the process and we know more,” Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Courtney Donowho said in an email statement. “The layoffs will be phased over the summer after the exact budget cut is finalized in mid-June by the Board of Supervisors.
“The cuts cover all unincorporated areas regardless of which station they are operating out of,” Donowho continued. “There are about 370 patrol deputy positions currently serving the unincorporated areas across Riverside County.”
There are another 80 detectives, sergeants and lieutenants serving 10 patrol stations across the county for the incorporated area, she said.
A 200-square-mile unincorporated area surrounding Lake Elsinore and Wildomar is patrolled by deputies out of the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station.
The expected layoffs come as the department continues to grapple with the county over budget cuts.
The Sheriff's Department estimates that proposed county budget cuts will force unincorporated patrol levels down to .75 per 1,000 residents. Currently, for every 1,000 residents there is one patrol.
Last week, Pat McNamara, head of the 3,500-member Riverside Sheriffs' Association, said if any significant layoffs take place, it's going to be “devastating."
“Any amount of cuts in the law enforcement force is going to degrade public safety,” he said.
On Friday, Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station Capt. Dave Fontneau reiterated that the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar are not affected by the proposed cuts.
“They are contract cities and agreements are in place,” he said.
Currently, 16 cities across the county contract police services with the sheriff’s department.
“… Costs (for police services) are a result of each city's own spending priorities and entirely funded by those cities,” Donowho said. “No county taxpayer dollars are involved in our contract cities like Lake Elsinore and Wildomar as they are already paying for the full costs associated with policing their communities.”
There are roughly 2,100 sworn deputies and another 750 correctional deputies at all ranks across the department, Donowho said.
As local officials stick to policing, representatives of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors made a final offer to the union representing employees of the Sheriff's Department on Friday, accordong to 5th District Supervisor Marion Ashley.
"Staff acting on the board's behalf were unable to reach agreement with the Riverside Sheriffs' Association and they presented the final, last, best offer and notified the S.A. they're imposing the offer," Ashley said, speaking at a San Gorgonio Pass Rotary Club luncheon at Sun Lakes Country Club in Banning.
"When you can't agree on a contract there's got to be a way to solve it," Ashley said. "And the way the law sets, when there's a stalemate the government agency can impose their final last best offer - 'this is the best I can do.'
"We couldn't agree," Ashley continued. "We instructed them what the last best offer will be. That will be brought to the Board of Supervisors at our next meeting to vote on and ratify." --Guy McCarthy and Rory O'Sullivan contributed to this report.