CLARK COUNTY, Wash. (KOIN) — If you live in Clark County, chances are you’ve seen signs pop up around the area, highlighting the sheriff’s office’s staffing shortage, which has some worried about safety.
The shortage is coming at the same time as the Portland Police Bureau deals with its own staffing issues, and just like PPB, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t think the issue will be solved anytime soon.
“Even on a good day, we are the least-staffed sheriff’s department in the state of Washington,” said Clark Co. Sheriff Chuck Atkins.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a big hit when it comes to getting boots on the ground. They’re down at least 69 staff members, including at least 24 exits since February.
As they struggle with getting those numbers back up, Sheriff Atkins says they’re trying to limit responses to only high-priority calls when appropriate, and it will be a while to even see any impact of new hires.
“It takes anywhere from a year to 18 months to put a deputy in a police car, out into the field,” said Atkins. “When you’re that far behind, it’s a hard time playing catch up.”
It’s a shortage now being called out by a website called ‘Safe Clark County’ that posts yard signs and billboards around the area. The website listed on the signs claims it’s one of the lowest officers-per-citizens ratios in the country and urges residents to get involved.
Atkins describes the staffing shortage as a “perfect storm” between police reform, the pandemic, and competitive pay to keep deputies and hire more.
“The City of Vancouver has been offering $25,000 signing bonuses for laterals and $10,000 for new hires,” said Atkins. “I even have people from the sheriff’s office who have left the agency to go work for the City of Vancouver because they get that signing bonus.”
One of the billboards is right outside Jeffrey Traxler’s place of work. He says he’s surprised to hear of the shortages.
“They’re always doing their job. I don’t know how they’re understaffed. That’s really shocking, actually,” said Traxler, who lives in Clark County. “It seems like they’re doing their job with the little amount of people they have. They’re definitely out and about.”
Meanwhile, another resident, Bob Travis, says it’s alarming and he’s even taken matters into his own hands, like buying security lights and cameras for his home.
“It doesn’t make you feel real safe. Being a little bit older, you worry more about property crimes and somebody breaking in and what-not,” said Travis. “Knowing that you’re kind of on your own if that happens, they’re not going to show up, that’s kind of a drag.”
Atkins remains hopeful they will make it out the other side.
“There is going to be a time when police are looked at in a better frame. Things are going to start getting back to normal I hope,” said Atkins. “I think we’re doing a great job out there protecting our community.”
KOIN 6 also tried to reach out to the people behind those signs, SafeClarkCounty.com, but there is no contact information listed, besides the numbers of Clark Co. councilors for constituents to contact.