Deputy shortage sparks Wash Co to ramp up recruitment

Editor's Note: This is the 1st of a 3-part series from Jennifer Hoff. Tune in Feb. 14 and 21 for the 2nd and 3rd pieces.

HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) -- The Washington County Sheriff's Office has a problem -- as many as 50 deputies could retire, leaving the department short staffed.

The woman in charge of recruiting new deputies -- Sgt. Caprice Massey-- said they don't have enough applicants.

"If I could get a larger audience to tell everyone not only how amazing this career is, but Washington Co. specifically, I'd scream it from the rooftops," Massey said.

The issue isn't unique to Washington County -- it's impacting agencies all across the country.

While vacancies vary from county to county, all face challenges to fill these jobs due to factors like natural turnover, retirements and a decrease in application submittal.

Learn more about the job and available positions below

WCSO gave KOIN 6 News an unprecedented look at the process -- to entice newcomers and keep them.

In a large, unassuming building near downtown Hillsboro is an obstacle course that's designed to feel a lot like a foot chase. 

Recruits have to get through it 6 times in less than 5 minutes and 30 seconds. 

They also have to pull a 160-pound dummy 25 feet within that time.

The physical abilities test is one of the first and most grueling parts of the hiring process. It also varies from county to county. For example Clark County's test includes a 300-meter run, maximum push-ups (no time limit), maximum sit-ups (one minute) and 1.5 mile run/walk.

Recruit Michael Iwicki is nearly 40 years old and recently retired from the Navy. He finished the test with a minute to spare.

"It doesn't seem that bad, but it gets pretty challenging after one or two laps," Iwicki said. "It's mind over matter, a lot of people see it and they get intimidated, but you can do it, you just have to push."

Deputy Jessica Hennessey said, "We run, fight, jump, stairs, everything with all our gear on so we have to have that physical standard."

Hennessey is part of the Washington County Recruitment Team -- which didn't even exist a couple years ago.

When asked why the push for the recruitment team, Massey said, "We just weren't getting as many applicants as we used to get."

Massey is the only deputy whose only job is to find new deputies.

"Now that the economy is in such great shape, there's not as much innate interest in law enforcement," Massey said. 

The agency has 265 patrol deputies and 150 jail deputies as part of a hiring boom throughout the country in the 1980s. Fifty of those deputies are eligible to retire, but losing them -- especially from one division -- would be crippling.

"Because of that, every other county is dealing with the same issues we are. And every city is dealing with those issues, so we are competing against them as well," Massey said.

After a recruit passes their physical abilities test, they're one step closer to Washington County's Comprehensive Benefits and Special Teams Training.

The next steps in the hiring process include answering four questions in front of a video camera, completing a 500-question test and WCSO conducting a thorough background investigation. A full list of the hiring process steps can be found here

Compared to Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark and Marion Counties -- Washington's annual salary range is the highest. Washington's salary ranges from about $63,000 to $76,772.38.

Multnomah's annual salary is between $55,749.60 and $71,764.56 for its Jail Deputy position. However, its Patrol Deputy position offers more: between $60,176.16 and $75,376.80. Clark's annual salary ranges from $60,000 to $76,585. Marion County offers between $52,000 and $74,000 while Clackamas's top salary for a deputy is $74,888.36.

While their salary may be an incentive, Sgt. Massey believes they offer much more than just good pay at Washington County.

"It's a factor, but I think the culture is far more important to people and what I have discovered in my few years as a supervisor is that people leave bosses and cultures before they leave for the pay," Massey said. "We are more focused on making sure every single person who works here knows how valuable they are and that their contribution is essential to our mission."

Washington County also strictly follows 3 core values.

"The Washington County core values are do the right thing, treat everyone the way you want to be treated and always do your best," Sgt Massey said.

She said their core values are "simple and basic fundamental values" that most people were brought up with. Those values don't just apply to coworkers, but with everyone they come into contact with including community members and jail inmates.

According to Massey, empathy is extremely important to have when to comes to deputy work.

"It is one of the most critical skill sets we need to be looking for when we're hiring," she said.

Watch the video below to hear Sgt. Massey explain WCSO's core values and the skills needed to become a deputy.

On Feb. 14, KOIN 6 News will get a behind the scenes look of the Washington County Jail and the people and procedures that keep it running smoothly.

Watch a Q&A session between Sgt. Caprice Massey and our Jennifer Hoff


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