For several years, Riverside County’s budget problems have continued, if not worsened. In the fall of 2016, the County contracted with KPMG, an international consulting firm, to help find ways to save money, work more efficiently and instill new management processes.

The Sheriff’s Department was an important focus of KPMG’s work, since this is the largest department in the county.

Last summer, KPMG began to study the work assignments at the sheriff’s Hemet Station. Using their models for workload and responses, KPMG was prepared to recommend a staff size of 23 for Hemet. The consultant’s staff felt encouraged that their work would reduce staffing by four positions and save money.

However, the Hemet Station was already operating with 18 deputies. The KPMG model essentially would increase the station’s staffing. But county-imposed budget cuts reduced the number of deputies deployed across all county unincorporated areas to just meet those reduced budget targets.

Hoping to understand and refine its model, KPMG continued to work with the Hemet Station’s staff through the fall.

In its press release, the Sheriff’s Department reported, “The collected data over the June through December 2017 time period at the Hemet Station showed the KPMG-designed deployment schedules were, in most aspects, less-efficient, less-effective, and less-fiscally responsible, with poor responsiveness by law enforcement to the community public safety needs.”

The Hemet Station incurred greater overtime costs, saw response times to critical incidents and other incidents increase. For violent in-progress crimes, the response grew an average of 3 minutes. For burglaries, alarms and domestic violence, the increase was nearly 60 percent.

Last week, the Sheriff’s Department announced, “[t]he testing of the so-called data driven test model for deployment … was abandoned in late December when the station sought relief from it from Sheriff’s Administration, concluding it as unsatisfactory.”

The time to respond to calls from the public increased during this test period and staff deployment became increasingly difficult, according to the Sheriff’s Department press statement release Friday, Jan. 26.

However, Riverside County management did not share the sheriff’s conclusion about the KPMG recommendations. Late Friday, the county issued the following statement: “This is not the first time there has been disagreement with the Sheriff about the very real opportunities to improve service by tactically matching staffing with demand.

 “And despite claims to the contrary, an optimized schedule used during pilot projects in the unincorporated areas of Hemet and Lake Elsinore helped reduce wait times for residents and improve officer safety. At each station, the results were impressive. Generally speaking, deputies reached community members faster following 911 calls, and officers received backup faster when facing a dangerous situation.”

But Hemet Station Capt. Leonard Purvis says the KPMG calculation for the time it takes for a deputy to respond to a call is inappropriate. Rather than measure the response time from when the citizen’s call arrives, KPMG measures response time from when dispatch sends the deputy. Sometimes dispatch has to wait or delay the order to a deputy.

“This is fundamentally flawed and not acceptable to the caller,” Purvis said. “The industry standard is from when the initial call is received.”

The sheriff’s press release noted, “Response time data is paramount when strategically planning staffing levels, deployment schedules, and work-area assignments.”

Purvis made it clear that the Sheriff’s Department is not simply opposed to all of KPMG’s ideas. He mentioned several good ideas, such as more efficient use of the telephone reporting systems, the use of non-sworn personnel and responses to alarm calls.

“These are issues we’ve looked at before, but agree with KPMG about possible changes and modifications,” he said.

A second KPMG test model continues at the sheriff’s Lake Elsinore Station. Its six-month trial period will be reviewed in February.