Contrary to campaign claims, turnover rate for Summit County Sheriff’s Office isn’t over 70 percent | SummitDaily.com

Contrary to campaign claims, turnover rate for Summit County Sheriff’s Office isn’t over 70 percent

As the Summit County Sheriff race heats up, turnover and retention rates at the office have become a major talking point for voters and candidates alike. But what do the actual numbers say?

During the Summit Daily News' election forum earlier this month, sheriff hopeful Derek Woodman made the issue one of the platforms of his campaign, claiming that something needed to be done about turnover rates that have ballooned to 70 percent under Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons' watch. Additionally, Woodman questioned the office's response time, claiming that it is currently around 15 minutes.

Last week the Summit County Sheriff's Office released a report of the office's retention rates and response times over the last few years, seeking to combat Woodman's claims.

"My decision to put this out was the result of the remarks made at the forum," said FitzSimons. "I felt it was an attack on the office and the staff, and that the community deserves to know the facts. It's not fair to staff and the community that this crazy statistical data was thrown out there."

According to the numbers, which have since been corroborated by the Summit County Human Resources Department, the turnover rate for sheriff's office employees has been relatively stable dating back to former Sheriff John Minor's administration in 2014.

"Turnover is a natural part of any business life cycle and government employment is not immune to employees leaving for a variety of reasons," said FitzSimons. "Employees have left the sheriff's office for a change of living location, cost of housing, limits on job opportunities, disciplinary reasons, workplace stress, liability and risk, and differences with management over pay, benefits and job performance expectations."

The sheriff's office has averaged a turnover rate of just over 20 percent since 2014, according to the report. These numbers include all of the divisions of the sheriff's office — including operations, jail staff and the animal control divisions — while excluding the elected sheriff, seasonal boat patrol employees, emergency management and any temporary staff.

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The data shows that there was a 20 percent turnover rate in 2014, 14 percent in 2015, 32 percent in 2016, 15 percent in 2017 and 19 percent so far this year. Taking a closer look at the data from 2016, there was 13 percent turnover from January through May before Sheriff Minor's departure from office, and a 20 percent turnover rate following FitzSimons appointment and subsequent election. Since FitzSimons took office there have been 40 individuals who left the agency, not counting emergency managers or the sheriff.

The numbers show a stark contrast from claims that the sheriff's office turnover rates have been in excess of 70 percent. Woodman said that he got his information from anecdotal conversations with deputies within the office, and did some preliminary math himself to come up with the figure. He also noted that the 70 percent number he spoke about during the forum was meant to reflect the sheriff's office over the entire 29 months FitzSimons has been in office, and not reflective of turnover rates as traditionally calculated by calendar or fiscal year. Still, Woodman believes that the rates are too high.

"I'm fine to say that the information I obtained from other employees was slightly skewed," said Woodman. "But that's still a significant number of employees in a 29-month period. More than 40 employees leaving is still considerable."

The report also dives into the reasons that certain employees left the office, though information was not collected from 11 of the 40 employees who left under FitzSimons. Of those who participated in an exit interview during FitzSimons' administration, 11 quit without providing additional information, seven left for another law enforcement agency in Summit County, five left for another law enforcement agency outside the county, three moved out of the area and three were terminated. But FitzSimons also admits that at least three individuals left as a result of his election in 2016, or because of decisions he made in office.

"At any time an employee can decide to leave because it's not a good fit for them," said FitzSimons. "With any sheriff there are people who don't agree with the way the election turned out. And I think losing two employees over that is pretty good."

Finally, the report details the sheriff's office response times for assaults in progress from June 2016 through May 2018. According to the numbers provided by the Summit County Communications Center, the sheriff's office is able to respond to most assaults in progress — including domestic assaults, sex assault, child abuse or fights — in less than 10 minutes. Deputies respond in under 10 minutes about 64-69 percent of the time, in under 15 minutes 80-85 percent of the time, and under 20 minutes 88-95 percent of the time.

"Our resources, or lack thereof, is directly reflective of response time," said FitzSimons. "If I had more deputies the response time would be cut down. I would be able to keep deputies in every area. So I'm proud of our times considering the level of resources we have in the office, and the level of service our deputies are able to maintain."

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