Bexar County is Failing Its Officers and Citizens
Commissioned Audit Finds Severe Deficiencies
(TX) – The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office commissioned an audit on the jail. They were sure that an unbiased audit would validate the claims they’ve been making for a long time, and they were right. The union for the deputies released a statement regarding some of the topics in the report.
These are topics that have come up over and over again, yet no one has done anything to fix them. Money is obviously an issue, but at what point do we say officer and public safety has to take precedence?
STATEMENT FROM DEPUTY SHERIFF’S ASSOCIATION OF BEXAR COUNTY
SEPTEMBER 30, 2022
Today (Sep. 30, 2022), the BCSO released Detain, Inc.’s audit of the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, which the BCSO itself had commissioned last year. We regret that this document was not made public before the Commissioners Court budget vote, even though it had been drafted well before budget discussions. We are still awaiting the County’s report…
Regarding its contents, many of its findings confirm what we have been saying for years, especially on issues of recruitment and retention. The BCSO is the worst paid county law enforcement of any major Texas county. The starting wage at the BCSO is currently 15.9% below the starting wages of the 5 other largest metropolitan counties in Texas.
We find that departments across the country are offering signing bonuses equal to 1/2 a year’s salary to recruit new officers. The county has a track record of short changing or minimizing the the importance of public safety and once again this has been confirmed by this survey.
Meanwhile, the wage gap only worsens with seniority. According to the study, the BCSO’s midpoint wage is 26.5% below that of other major Texas counties, while its maximum hourly wage is 39.3% higher. These factors undermine the BCSO’s ability to hire and damages retention.
The DSABC has also found that nearly $3 million total has been stolen from the employees compensation package since 2016 as a big factor in the retention issue. The hard working men and women of the BCSO are forced to work grueling shifts 70-90 hours a week to keep the jail going and in return the county management “rewards” them by stealing/taking their time from them October 1st of every year because they are unable to get the time off due to the staffing crisis – a policy referred as “use it or lose it.”
Moreover, we have always alerted the public to the severe amount of vacancies at the jail, which, as the study says, is the “primary cause” of the BCSO’s chronic forced overtime and forced no relief practices. The study finds that the rate of vacancies at the BCSO at over 33%, is two to three times larger than that of surrounding Tarrant, Travis, and Dallas Counties
We also strongly agree with the consultant’s recommendation against privatizing the jail. Privatization has been proven not to work in the past.
Salary Causing Major Staffing Issues
San Antonio, the second largest city in Texas, is located in Bexar County. For as big as it is, San Antonio still has a bit of a small town feel. Maybe that’s why Commissioners Court treats it as if it is a small town. Commissioners Court has continued to attack the Sheriff’s Office, through multiple sheriffs, about the vacancies at the jail. The numbers listed in the DSABC’s statement show where the real problem is. The Commissioners refuse to pay a salary comparable to other agencies.
If two McDonalds are hiring, with one paying $10 an hour, and the other paying $15 an hour, it’s pretty obvious where people are going to go apply. That’s the position the Commissioners have put the jail in. They have short-changed the jail for many years. Because of that, the system is starting to crumble.
County Manager’s Office
Commissioners Court makes the final decision so the buck stops there, but they’ve been supported by another agency in damaging the jail. That would be the County Manager’s Office, an office fraught with its own issues.
It is the job of the County Manager to watch the budget. But in Bexar County’s case the manager’s frugality always seems to be directed at staffing. Well, not always. If you’re a friend of the manager you can get an almost 26% pay raise.
According to the article, “Smith confirmed Lozito’s raise did not go before county commissioners for a vote, but said key members of the court were briefed on it before it went through. Lozito’s raise is staggering, when compared with pay increases of other county officials made public in recent years.”
That same manager has fought tooth and nail, keeping retirees from a getting a raise for years. One was finally approved over the objection of his office. And every year he fights against any increases for the officers. When you can’t fill spots, people are forced to work overtime. Exhausted people make mistakes. They miss signs that their safety is in danger, or that an inmate is in danger. Maybe they lose their temper due to exhaustion and stress and they become the danger.
Privatization of the Bexar County Jail
This topic keeps coming up. The bean counters always want to privatize. All they see are a whole bunch of employees off their payroll. No salaries being paid, no medical coverage, no benefits, nothing. They don’t care about the cost to the community. They don’t care that we will lose a large amount of jobs that pay a living wage and replace them with minimum wage jobs.
For the County to save money, it has to pay a company less than what it pays for those positions that county employees are in. But a company, by design, has a middle man. It’s the company itself. The company’s owners have to make money so they take their cut, which is often a sizable one. The savings to the County and the company’s cut have to come from somewhere and we all know it’s in the staffing. That’s why the company pays minimum wage, That’s why their employees have crappy benefits.
And that’s why those jail workers are so easily bought off. It’s why they’re willing to do things like bring in phones, drugs, pass information, and so much more. It’s why the turnover is so high, which in turn leads to constant, poorly qualified, new people. It’s also why private jails have more escapes than government run jails.
Time to Act Like a Large City
Enough is enough. San Antonio is a large city and Commissioners Court needs to act like its funding a jail for a large city. That means paying a competitive wage so the jail can retain staffing. It’s not like the money goes into a black hole. It flows into our local economy which benefits everyone. Stop short-changing our community.