Sheriff says he needs additional deputies to more effectively cover Pierce County

TACOMA, Wash. -- The sheriff of Pierce County is raising serious safety concerns, saying he doesn’t have enough deputies to cover the entire county.

Sheriff Paul Pastor said Tuesday he is trying to find a way to pay for more than 70 new employees.

Pastor paid to have an independent study done to look at the staffing levels within the department, and that study found that the sheriff’s department is doing more with less as they work in a county that continues to grow in population.

“It’s amazing living in Parkland because there are sirens all the time,” said Kim Hiles, who has lived in Parkland for the last several years.

Parkland is in an unincorporated area of Pierce County.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for keeping that part of the county safe.

Those who live in the Parkland area say crime is a big problem, but they say, a bigger problem is the lack of Pierce County sheriff’s deputies available to respond to certain calls.

“Property crime is impossible to get someone to come out,” said Ron Bohanan, who has lived in Parkland for 42 years.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for a population of about 400,000 over an 1,800 square mile area.

According to a study commissioned by the sheriff’s department, there are currently 189 deputies working the county, which is down from 235 deputies just eight years ago.

At that time, many were let go during the recession.

“We’re not a little sleepy, wheat farming county or an orchard county, we have real time, big time, prime-time crime,” said Pastor.

The independent study, which cost the department $45,000, was presented to County Council for the first time Tuesday.

It found the sheriff’s department needs to hire anywhere between 72 to 82 employees in order to deliver the level of service the community expects.

“We are very efficient in what we do; we’re not sufficiently effective,” said Pastor.

Pastor said one thing that is currently suffering are calls about property crime. That’s because he says they don’t have the deputies to respond to those type of calls because they have to handle the priority calls.

The sheriff is hoping to hire 40 new deputies just to have on patrol.

“I think it would be great if they could get as many as possible. It would be wonderful and I think that it would make everyone feel safer,” added Hiles.

Pierce County Council members are supportive of the sheriff’s need for more staffing and have already provided some funding so he can hire a few new workers.

However, council members are still studying the details of this plan to see if it’s worth it because it could cost the county up to $11 million a year to hire all of the people the sheriff wants on his staff.

Where the money would come from has yet to be determined but voters could be asked to foot part of that bill.