For Pierce County deputies, life-saving backup can be miles away

The murder of Pierce County Deputy Daniel McCartney, shot to death after responding to a home invasion robbery, has shined a glaring spotlight on the dangers of low staffing levels at law enforcement agencies across Washington.

Like many deputies and officers, McCartney patrolled alone – a task that is particularly dangerous in Pierce County’s vast Mountain Detachment, where life-saving backup can be 30 minutes away or more. Only two to three deputies patrol the detachment at any given time – an area that covers 700 square miles and serves more than 40,000 residents.

Two weeks after Deputy McCartney was killed, Q13 News spent a night on patrol with the detachment – getting a first-hand look at the challenges facing agencies that are woefully understaffed.

Why are so many police agencies dangerously understaffed? Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, now head of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC), said the state isn't giving them enough money to get much needed recruits through the academy. She discussed the issue on "Q13 News This Morning."