SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Friday his office will not force personnel to take accrued leave in an effort to avoid paying them overtime, rescinding a memo that was sent out by his command staff days earlier.
Salazar's decision comes days after the KSAT 12 Defenders were sent a copy of the original memo, which stated that starting next month, deputies about to hit the 480-hour threshold of compensatory time would be selected at random to take a week of paid time off.
In a new memo sent Friday, Salazar told BCSO personnel, "I have made the decision to utilize management's ability to conserve overtime by directing personnel to take leave only on a volunteer basis. While nothing precludes the administration from implementing mandatory use of leave at a later date, we fully recognize the need to ensure adequate law enforcement coverage and maintain control of crime."
Salazar said supervisors and managers will be directed to ask employees who want to take time off to voluntarily use their compensatory time off bank instead of using vacation or other types of leave time.
Deputies who have accrued 480 hours of compensatory time or more are paid time and a half for each hour of overtime they work.
A Defenders investigation in January first exposed the massive amounts of overtime paid out to some deputies who had crossed over the 480-hour threshold.
A follow up investigation in March showed a single patrol deputy made more than $68,000 in overtime pay last year.
The figure more than doubled his annual salary.
Salazar said in the memo Friday that employees can use their compensatory time to cover all or part of the time off they request.
He went on to say, "It was never the administration's intent, nor will it ever be, to leave patrol districts unfilled, to allow crimes to not be fully investigated, or to allow staffing levels to fall dangerously low."
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office sent KSAT the following statement:
"Sheriff Salazar issued a memo to clarify the issue. Since numerous deputies came forward to utilize their compensatory time to assist with overtime reduction efforts, the administration will continue to monitor the process and see what savings can be achieved on a voluntary basis."
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office will soon begin forcing deputies to take time off in an effort to avoid paying them overtime, a memo obtained by the Defenders shows.
Beginning in September, deputies will be selected at random to take a week of paid time off, the memo states. This comes a month-and-a-half before the start of a new fiscal year.
The Sheriff's Office is scheduled to receive new funding in October, when the county's next fiscal year begins.
Deputies collect accrued time off when they work more than 40 hours a week. But in order to qualify for paid overtime, a deputy must first accumulate 480 hours of leave, which is equivalent to 60 days of work.
The memo orders BCSO lieutenants to choose deputies or sergeants who are about to hit the 480-hour threshold to "start sending them home for a week at a time, forcing them to use their" accrued leave.
Jeremy Payne, president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County, said since the memo was sent, he has received countless phone calls from deputies.
"We are at the end of our fiscal year and money always runs low, so we do understand that, but on our end, the question becomes: How much is a life worth? How much are deputies worth?" Payne said.
In a statement sent on behalf of the DSABC, Payne wrote that the decision to "take our deputies off the streets" will "reduce your safety."
"We believe the safety of the community should never be outweighed by any amount of overtime," Payne wrote in the statement provided to KSAT.
The Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the move is in an effort to "reduce taxpayer expense."
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office released the following statement to KSAT:
"In an effort to reduce taxpayer expense, while also ensuring that the safety of Bexar County residents is not compromised, members of BCSO Law Enforcement who are approaching 480 hours of Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) compensatory time may be asked to schedule time off in accordance with their personal needs. As has been a common practice for years within the BCSO, this is being done in order to prevent an excess amount of compensatory time payout. This request was made with the feedback from the Bexar County Budget Department.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to maintaining adequate staffing, without placing the safety of our community at risk and as such, there will be no gaps in service to the community. Additionally, Violent Crime in Bexar County is down by 16.54 % and BCSO 911/Emergency Response Times improved by 16.5%. Supervisors will have adequate staffing on their shifts, in the event they need to rotate a deputy out, manpower will not be affected."