The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs is expected to head into Superior Court this afternoon and call on a judge to block the county from using civilians inside the jails.
The practice was first announced under the tenure of former Sheriff Jack Anderson and implemented by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. It is also used in other jurisdictions like Riverside County.
AOCDS representatives declined comment. In the past, the deputy's union has been wary of the idea, questioning the background checks done on such workers and generally voicing concern for officer safety because of less training.
Sheriff's Department officials, however, stand by the plan, arguing that the civilian jailers are only being used in fixed guard stations that can easily be manned by lesser trained officers.
"We are causing deputies to be out on the floor and to do more jobs fitting of their skills," said Assistant Sheriff Jay LeFlore, who is responsible for custody operations and courts.
The plan is to replace those deputy positions through attrition until civilian jailers make up about 35 percent of the jail work force.
Called Correctional Service Assistants, department officials say the positions are key to achieving this year's budgetary cuts without instituting layoffs. "We have worked very hard to meet those (budget) numbers ... and in the budgetary savings we can achieve, CSAs are a big part of that," LaFluer said.
The CSAs are well paid, officials said, but they represent significant cost savings for the county because they do not receive the lucrative pension benefits granted to deputy sheriffs. They also help curtail overtime costs because deputies aren't asked to fill last-minute vacancies at guard stations triggered by sickness or vacation.
Lastly, when department officials instituted the program, they noted the average time a deputy has to spend in the jails before getting a patrol assignment is eight years.
This practice has long been questioned mainly because of the significant lag between the time a deputy receives patrol training and when he or she actually gets on the streets.
"The end result should be that deputies should spend less time in the jail," said LeFlore.
-- NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.