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LOS ANGELES — Reflecting on his first year in office Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna acknowledged that his department is facing a "staffing crisis," saying that staff reductions made years ago, combined with deputies leaving for other jobs, have caught up with the department. That shortage, he said, has lead to lots of forced overtime for deputies, and the resulting mental health crisis.
"We have lost eight employees to suicide. That is not acceptable," Luna said. "One is not acceptable."
According to Luna, the department is short about 2,800 employees, including 1,200 sworn deputies. That massive employment gap means the deputies currently employed are working too much to pick up the slack.
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In November, the department reported four suicides involving current and former members over two days. Following that news, former Deputy Saren Prime told FOX 11's Gina Silva about the stresses forced overtime puts on department members.
"I will work six days a week, 16, 18-hour shifts," Price said in November. "And that leaves us with really no time to do anything."
The claim asserted that the fatigue resulting from demanding work schedules impairs the deputies' ability to stay alert and respond effectively in the line of duty.
Luna acknowledged that current overtime rates are untenable, and said the department has hired 350 deputies this year, hoping to hire another 650 in 2024. The department has also added three more doctors to the department to deal with mental health and are working on plans to improve retention rates and develop and implement best practices.
"At the end of the day we are, I am, prioritizing employee wellness," Luna said. "We need to put that at the top of the list of everything we do."