Law and justice report: County feeling effects of widespread layoffs

Law and justice report: County feeling effects of widespread layoffs »Play Video
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Fewer staff and growing workloads; shrinking budgets have left few departments untouched.

And now an independent review of Yakima County's criminal justice system raised issues of poor staffing and the impact on efficiency.

For example, understaffing in the Yakima County Sheriff's Office has exhausted overtime budgets and limited coverage by deputies.

"We can do so much in the community with our deputies. So effective having the proper level of man-power. But the biggest thing is safety, for citizen safety and officer safety,” said Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin.

And that safety could be in question with YSO only having half the management it once had. The department is down seven deputies and three dispatchers as well.

The report suggested more plea bargains and fewer trials. The money saved could be used to hire more deputies.

In addition, 83 layoffs at the Yakima County Jail have cut services to the bone.

The committee concludes prosecutors are overworked; 21 left the office in a three year span.

The report blames this high turnover on causing court delays, taxpayer waste and inefficiency in getting cases through the court system.

In many areas, the report recommends increasing staff levels to improve efficiency. However, commissioners say adding to one area will likely take away from another.

"If we do, what are we going to give up? Are we going to lay people off in other departments? Are we going to put that load on the other departments?” said Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott.

Those are questions commissioners will weigh as they study the panel's recommendations, look towards next year's budget and consider spending more money to keep safety and efficiency in line.

More staff would also be needed if Yakima County was to follow the recommendations to change the bail system and improve the juvenile justice system.

Commissioners plan to take the weekend to study the report and its recommendations before meeting again on Monday.

>>>Click here to see the full Yakima County Law and Justice Panel Review Committee Report