Sheriff pitches Pierce County Council on hiring up to 82 employees

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is significantly understaffed and needs to add at least 40 patrol deputies to meet the needs of the county, Sheriff Paul Pastor said Tuesday.

Overall, the agency would need to add 72 to 82 people to hit ideal staffing levels, Pastor said. The positions range from general office staff to patrol deputies and sergeants.

The sheriff released the figures Tuesday at a County Council study session.

They come from an analysis done by consulting firm Public Safety Strategies Group, which the Sheriff’s Department hired to review its staffing.

“This is really unprecedented for us to be recommending this level of staffing,” said Kym Craven, director of Public Safety Strategies Group of West Townsend, Massachusetts. “This organization runs very lean.”

Pastor held a press conference after the study session.

“We have real time, big time, prime time crime,” he said. “We are certainly efficient in what we do. We are not sufficiently effective. We intend to work to be effective for the people of this county.”

That would be done through boosting staffing levels, said Pastor, who added he plans to work with the County Council and County Executive Pat McCarthy to find the money to do that.

“It is not going to be easy, there is no question about that,” Pastor said. “It is not going to be inexpensive, there is no question about that. The question is, do we want to do it right?”

The consultant’s report proposed that hiring be done over a five years in a phased approach.

Cost of the hiring was not part of the sheriff’s presentation, but initial estimates indicate it could run $9 million to $11 million a year to maintain an additional 82 employees after the fifth year.

“It’s going to be challenging for us to find the money to do that,” said Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma.

Specifics weren’t addressed Tuesday, but the assumption among council and sheriff personnel was that a voter-approved levy increase would be needed to pay for the additional positions.

Adding 40 deputies would restore the department to a staffing level it hasn’t seen since 2007.

At the time the analysis was done, the department had 189 deputies. The County Council since has approved money to fill 11 positions, including adding five people to the property crimes unit.

At the end of May, the council approved using one-time monies in a loan from its revolving equipment fund to cover the cost of adding six full-time employees to the Sheriff’s Department.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley