KIOWA — If staffing shortages at the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office aren’t filled soon, could mean longer waits for people in need of help.
Officials with the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office say they are short about six patrol deputies, and if they can’t hire more soon, they might have to switch to an on-call system at night, in which deputies would only respond to certain calls from their homes.
“Elbert County is a very fast-growing county,” Sgt. Jon Rollf with the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office said.
And that growth has created a conundrum.
“When I worked out here is 2008, 2009, the population of Elbert County was about 14,000 people,” Rollf said. “We’re at about 28,000 people now, and our staffing levels have not increased to match.”
It’s leading to long hours for deputies. For taxpayers, more money spent on overtime pay.
“We’ve gone through a lot of heartache paying these guys what we think they deserve,” he said.
Rural departments like Elbert County are all facing an uphill battle.
“We’re losing people to Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, we’re losing people to Thornton, Aurora PD… those places where they can go make $20,000 more starting pay,” Rollf said.
And if Elbert County can’t get more deputies on the road soon–
“We’re dangerously close to having to shut our county down and not have anybody on during the overnight hours,” he said.
In that case, deputies would be “on-call” at night and respond only to certain calls from their homes.
“So the response times are going to be a lot longer,” he said.
The agency has been trying to make itself more attractive to applicants. Last month all the deputies got a raise.
“Our base pay, now, is getting up there with some of the surrounding agencies,” Rollf said.
The community is chipping in too.
The man behind local gun-dealer Bullseye Supply LLC didn’t want to speak on camera, but he tells News 5 he’ll give away a free box of ammunition to anyone who applies for one of the Sheriff’s Office’s open jobs.
“If our citizens knew, on a daily basis, what our men and women went through, and the call load these guys take… I’m glad to see the support,” Rollf said.