On the agenda: Richmond facing staffing challenges, needs dozens of new employees, says report

On the agenda: Richmond facing staffing challenges, needs dozens of new employees, says report
Employees pause to view the eclipse in front of Richmond City Hall on Monday, April 8, 2024. Photo/Soren Hemmila

A workforce analysis by Raftelis Financial Consultants to be presented at the May 28 Richmond City Council meeting recommends filling vacancies and adding 74 new positions, including a dozen more police officers, to meet current service level expectations for all of the city’s existing programs and services for $12.5 million.

According to the report, the city does not have the revenue growth necessary to support this level of staffing increase and has likely been using staff vacancies to grow its cash reserves in recent years. 

Raftelis recommended adding positions in Community Development, Economic Development, Community Services, Internal Services, Public Works, and Police and Fire departments.

In 2022, the State of California audited the City of Richmond as part of the high-risk local government agency audit program. The audit led to an 11-recommendation corrective plan and directed Richmond to undertake a workforce analysis by June of this year.

The state auditor concluded the city’s long-term financial stability was uncertain and at high risk due to Richmond’s anticipated deficits, high pension debt, and mismanagement of the Richmond Housing Authority.

City operates at 82 percent staffing levels

In 2024, Richmond had authorized 742.9 positions but has been operating at 82 percent staffing levels for the past three years. This means that the city has continued to operate programs and services with almost 20 percent less staff than budgeted and is equivalent to 135 full-time employees, according to the report.

The increased workload leads to a decline in the quality of service, and the adverse impact this increased workload has had on staff morale was reportedly evident during Raftelis’s interviews with city staff.

City staffing and revenues, 2005 - present

Richmond uses a significant amount of overtime

The current workload exceeds staff capacity and is only met by staff working beyond regularly scheduled hours. Overtime equated to 15 percent of regular staff hours. The city’s average overtime equals 63.7 full-time employees or almost half its vacancies.

Overtime usage is highest in the fire and police departments, which have mandated its use to meet minimum staffing coverage due to vacancies. In the fire department, overtime is 38 percent of regular staff hours, while in the police department, it is 18 percent.

Authorized staffing in the police department decreased by 15 percent overall since 2020. The reduction was especially significant among sworn staff, decreasing from 178 in 2020 to 145 in 2024.

The department has struggled with the impact of turnover and vacancies in recent years and had an average of 50 vacant positions in 2022 and 2023. 

“This extremely high vacancy rate has a significant impact on capacity and operations,” the report stated.

The policing environment has changed nationwide since the 2020 murder of George Floyd, leading to recruiting and retention issues.

“Another factor in Richmond is the perception the city council does not support the police department, due to reductions in staffing and budget and comments made by some councilmembers,” the report stated.

The Richmond Police Department relied heavily on officers working overtime to meet minimum staffing levels of at least two patrol supervisors per shift and one officer on duty for each of the city’s nine patrol beats. 

Police employees worked an average of 57,720 hours per year of overtime between 2021 and 2023, the equivalent of almost 28 staff positions. The average person working overtime worked 367 hours per year, equivalent to more than nine extra weeks of work.

The report said it is vital that officers have the opportunity to rest and cultivate a work-life balance. Officers who are overworked may be more likely to leave the department. Fatigue can also impact decision-making and reaction time, potentially impacting officer effectiveness and the safety of the officer and the public.

The city previously commissioned a staffing study of the police department conducted by the Matrix Consulting Group in the Spring of 2023. The study recommends significant staffing increases to address some of these workload and coverage concerns. Matrix recommends 70 new authorized positions, including 31 in the investigations bureau and 31 in the patrol operations bureau. 

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