The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is severely understaffed according to a recently published study.
The study found that the sheriff’s department needs between 72-82 new employees throughout the department to ensure safety among the community.
The department needs at least 40 more deputies and then 30-40 more staff members to fulfill other duties in the sheriff’s department.
In total, it would cost between $9 million and $11 million per year to hire them all.
To get this money, the department plans to go to the executive and County Council to put this money into their annual budget, but nothing more has been discussed or approved yet.
If the department follows these guidelines and get more employees, they will be back at the level they were before the 2008 recession hit, according to the survey.
Cut backs in the department contributed to the low staff at the department. The number of deputies went from 235 in 2007 to 189 in 2016, according to the press release by the department.
The current 189 deputies are in charge of 1,800 square miles and serving a population of 400,000.
That’s one officer per about 2116 people. That’s also means one officer has to cover more than 9 square miles each to cover the entirety of the Pierce County’s unincorporated area.
Sheriff Paul Pastor of Pierce County said in a news conference that there have been instances where police in Pierce County will be called to a minor emergency, but aren’t able to respond to it.
“If you have a burglary over here, and you have a child rape over here and you have one detective to send, where would you send the detective?” Pastor said in the news conference.
Heather Songer, the communications assistant for the Pierce County’s department, said that this is one of the biggest complaints from the community. She said according to the survey, if they get the numbers in employment up, this won’t be as big of a problem for the department and they should in theory, have enough officers to be able to respond to all calls.
“I think it again goes back to the fact that there are a high volume of calls that come and only a certain amount of deputies that can respond,” Songer said.
According to a chart on the Pierce County’s Sheriff’s website, there have been a general increase in phone calls and a general decrease in staff members in the past decade.
According to Songer, hiring these new employees will be five-step plan that will take full effect in 2017.
Pastor said part of the plan is already in progress. The Pierce County Council approved of the money to hire a new detective and five more deputies.
This study alone cost the department $45,000, which was performed by an agency in Massachusetts.
“My goal in contracting with an outside agency was to obtain an unbiased review of the structure and staffing of the law enforcement side of the department,” said Pastor from a press release by the Pierce County Sheriffs Department.
This is the year that the department starts to put all of the plans the study showed to be effective into play.
One of the first things the department wants to do is to hire an additional command staff or a bureau chief, which is a person within the department that is the leader of news and information. They help inform the rest of the staff about what is going on in the community.
Another step within this year is to provide more lieutenants, which are members of the department that are in charge of various law enforcement and administrative functions.
The next step, according to the Pierce County Department’s website, is to improve the community engagement with the officers.
One of the last steps in this year is to hire more deputies, which will add on to the 40 that they need to fulfill the study’s suggestions.
In this year, the department plans to continue to hire more deputies to add onto the 40 they need by the end of the five-year plan.
Next, the department wants to evaluate crime trends and community engagement with all of its officers to make sure all citizens are kept safe.
Then, one of the last things they want to get done for this year is to begin hiring co-responders.
These are the last few years for the plan to be totally completed, which if done correctly will improve Pierce County’s Sheriff’s Department significantly, according to the survey.
At this point, the department wants to have hired the 40 deputies they were advised to get.
Then they would also like to add sergeant positions and to continue co-responder hirings as well.
The department wants to continue to evaluate crime trends and community engagements in the area all throughout the end of the five-year plan.
Lastly, they would like to be able to evaluate changes in the community and response needs in the community.