Pierce County budget proposal includes $473.1 million for public safety, addressing rising crime

As crime numbers rise in the region, law enforcement agencies are looking for new ways to help keep the streets safe. Several departments are getting creative about ways to recruit. 

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office hosted a booth at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup to get the word out about hiring. Deputies said with crime increasing in some communities across the county, they need help responding to it. 

"We want to be able to continue to provide great service for the county, but we need people to do that. So, if we have less deputies on the street, then it’s less services or extracurricular services that we can offer. Those specialty units might go away temporarily until we can our numbers back up again," said Sgt. Darren Moss Jr., public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

Moss said, despite a staff shortage, deputies will work to maintain their current patrol levels.

"We’re going to the streets fully staffed as best as we can. We’ll always have deputies on duty," said Moss. "The issue is going to be internally. Our folks are going to be working a lot of overtime to make up if we’re missing people or short on staff. We don’t want our deputies to get burned out."

The concern is that burnout could happen sooner than expected, as some agencies across the county are responding to record highs in crime levels with less staff.

"There’s a crime wave happening across our country, in our state and in Pierce County. So, we are really focusing on incentives so we can hire more deputies, we’re focusing on better supporting our deputies who are in the field and supporting them outside the field," said county executive Bruce Dammeier.

RELATED: Tacoma city leaders discuss plans to address concerning increase in violent crimes

The county executive proposed more than $473.1 million towards public safety, representing 16.5% of the proposed $3 billion biennial budget for 2022-2023. The public safety section of the proposal includes the sheriff's office, emergency management and medical examiner's office. 

Dammeier said the proposal includes $2 million equipping deputies with body cameras and dash cameras.

"It’s a key way to build trust. We want to have an accurate representation of what our deputies are experiencing and how they’re behaving," said Dammeier.

The county executive said funds will also support a new wellness program to help deputies deal with the complexity of the job.

"Those are very difficult jobs and they’re very stressful jobs. Life and death decisions that they have to face. So, making sure that they are mentally healthy, that they have got all the things, is really important. Recognizing how hard it is, we’ve got to take care of them on and off the job," said Dammeier.

Moss said the support would be helpful. He said the wellness program would be beneficial, as especially the sheriff’s office continues working to fill open positions in a difficult time for law enforcement.

RELATED: Tacoma City Councilmembers call for increase police presence after rise in violent crimes

"We’ve already had to temporarily close down our Crime Suppression Team. They were doing proactive police work, but because our numbers were getting low, we had to put those folks back into patrol," said Moss.

Dammeier said Pierce County is not unique to the increased crime, just as other communities across the country have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the proposed budget is focused on recovering from COVID-19, and that includes providing public safety agencies with resources to better protect the community.

"We need to be building trust with our community and being accountable to our community," said Dammeier.

The sheriff’s office website has more information about hiring and recruiting efforts.

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