Clallam County sheriff staffing levels up

After an aggressive advertising and recruitment campaign that included offering three-year referral, retention and recruitment bonuses for patrol and corrections deputies and message boards at major intersections, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office is on its way to being fully staffed for both corrections and patrol deputies.

“We’re flush with patrol deputies. We either have offers out or people attending academies in all our patrol positions. So now we are focused on corrections,” said Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy.

“We have several conditional offers out. We are conducting background on corrections deputies. We have had a minimum twofold increase in applicants. It’s been very quick. We have had a great influx. But getting good employees takes time,” he said.

The recruitment effort was begun to address a 30 percent staffing shortage — nine positions — at the jail as well as to aid in patrol staffing.

The patrol sergeants, corrections sergeants and corrections officers will receive retention bonuses, but the patrol deputies will not because that bargaining unit wouldn’t agree to spreading the bonuses over three years instead of two, according to county officials.

The bonus program was funded with up to $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The staffing shortage also led Sheriff Bill Benedict to hire Norpoint Protective Services of Port Angeles to provide courthouse security through the end of 2022, using the $46,200 in unspent deputy salaries. That function will be moved back in-house in 2023 using corrections deputies.

“It always been our intent that, once we were up to full staff, eventually we would get back to using deputies for courthouse security,” said King, who has won the election for sheriff in unofficial results and will begin his term next year.

“We are meeting with other sheriffs and police chiefs and talking about the same things. Everybody is in a crunch,” he added.

“There’s a real challenge ahead and will be for quite some time. We’re trying to figure out how to address this. Maybe it won’t be perfect,” king said.

Policing agencies across Washington state saw a 4.4 percent reduction in the number of sworn officers in 2021. Combined with the drop in 2020, Washington now has 667 fewer deputies and police officers than in 2019, according to Steven D. Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, in August.

With 1.38 officers per 1,000 people, the lowest ratio since statistics were first tracked in 1980, Washington is the least policed state in the country. The national average per capita rate is 2.33, according to FBI statistics.