Sheriff gives ‘F’ to pilot program intended to lower costs

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County sheriff’s officials Friday, Jan. 27, slammed a pilot program implemented by a firm hired by the county board of supervisors to cut costs and improve efficiencies, saying the effort has made things worse for the agency and the public, but that claim was challenged by the county Executive Office, citing contrary data.

A sheriff’s statement described the KPMG project as a “failed test model, less effective and more costly.” However, the executive office countered that the Netherlands-based firm’s strategy had produced positives, reducing the time for deputies to respond to calls for service while improving deputies’ safety.

KPMG was hired in October 2015 to identify ways of optimizing public safety operations to help the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Department of Probation and Sheriff’s Department run leaner and meaner.

The company was later retained to do the same for general government operations, bringing the total cost of the KPMG contract to about $40 million.

The firm has been field testing different approaches to law enforcement and June initiated a pilot program at the sheriff’s Hemet station that involved altering patrol shifts and re-prioritizing calls to incidents, ostensibly to save time and money, according to sheriff’s officials.

“Previous deployment strategies had been based upon decades of hands- on local management experience with call volumes, response times to various communities within the station jurisdiction, as well as the nuances for each unique area within station boundaries,” Hemet station Commander Capt. Leonard Purvis said.

“During the KPMG trial, the Hemet station’s overtime expenditures increased by approximately 9 percent, response times to our most critical incidents increased by an average of three minutes, while all other response times – including residential burglaries, alarms and domestic violence – increased by at least 58 percent,” Purvis said.

“KPMG’s deployment structure put more deputies into the field on days with less calls for service, and their line-level scheduling plan did not account for state-mandated training, short or long-term employee leave, the probability of simultaneous multiple critical incidents, general law enforcement in-progress violent crime trends or our modified-duty and special assignment requirements,” he said.

“The optimized schedule reduced residents’ wait times for priority one calls – crimes in progress – by 43 percent during the pilot in the Hemet station and 16 percent during pilot in the Lake Elsinore Station,” according to the executive office. “The optimized schedules reduced resident wait times for all priority types of calls by greater than 20 percent and reduced the waiting time on weekend calls by as much as 65 percent at peak times.”

Officials said that several municipalities under contract with the sheriff’s department have “expressed an interest in testing” the same models utilized in Hemet and Lake Elsinore based on those outcomes.

Sheriff Stan Sniff signaled his aversion to the KPMG methodologies during a July hearing regarding whether to extend the firm’s contract for two years.

Sniff, who had reservations about the KPMG contract from the beginning, expressed doubts about figures cited by company executive Ian McPherson and others showing improvements in sheriff’s operations thanks to the work of analysts.

The sheriff’s remarks elicited a rebuke from Supervisor John Tavaglione, who questioned Sniff’s commitment to collaboration for the county’s benefit.

McPherson told the board a “transformation” was underway, and public safety agencies, collectively, were on a path to net $100 million in annual savings.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries has been alone in opposing the board’s agreements with KPMG, opining that the money could be better spent bulking up the sheriff’s patrol force, which has declined in unincorporated communities to
pre-recession levels.

Additional discussion about the KPMG contract is expected Feb. 6, during the board’s midyear 2017-2018 hearing.

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