Shanahan outlines challenges in Public Safety Dept.

Kieran Shanahan
January 16, 2013 3:27:19 PM PST
The state's biggest agency, the Department of Public Safety, appears to be dogged by with problems. Some say there are thousands of unfilled positions, administrative bloat, and legal challenges.

From state prisons to juvenile justice to the Highway Patrol, the Department of Public Safety covers a lot of ground. However, after years of budget cuts, holes are starting to show.

"If you're riding on bald tires, you can still get up and down the road but sooner and or something is going to happen," said Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan.

Shanahan was tapped to head up newly formed department a month ago. What he's found so far is an agency riddled with problems.

"On the one hand, it's probably worse than I thought," said Shanahan. "I've got 10,000 people I can't communicate with by email. We've got thousands of unfilled jobs. Many of our people are working in 1910 era buildings. Infrastructure has been ignored.

All that just scratches the surface and a lack of money is at the root of most of the problems.

"I've got law enforcement officers, particularly Highway Patrollers, who are statutorily supposed to be getting these raises and they haven't been getting them," said Shanahan.

Shanahan said he expects to cut some areas and put more money into others. On the chopping block is senior management.

"There will certainly be less management, more operation, and done more strategically," said Shanahan.

Shanahan said the agency is also dogged by pending lawsuits -- 1,500 of them.  An "unbelievable" number of workers compensation claims, and even things like out of shape prison guards.

Then, there's something even harder to get a handle on -- reputation. Parts of Public Safety, like the Highway Patrol, have taken hit after hit over the last few years.

"You have perception and reality," said Shanahan. "I can deal with reality. Perception is a little harder to control."  

Shanahan himself brushed up against the problems of perception last weekend when he was spotted getting out of a stretch limousine holding a red Solo cup. It's unclear if Shanahan broke the state's open container law, but it was in the newspaper the next day.

ABC11 asked Shanahan about what was in the cup.

"The funny thing is it was empty and I was putting it in the trash can," said Shanahan.

When asked what was in it before it was empty, Shanahan replied, "Look, I'm Irish, ok?"

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