Sheriff keys in BOCC on critical officer shortage

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    Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts

    Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts address the board in reference to his staff shortage. Roberts said he was to the crisis stage.
    “We are experiencing like the fire rescue and road department, I sit here and hear what you’re dealing with but I’m in a crisis right now of not having deputies. Counties surrounding us as well as the state, they are taking those officers from us because of higher salaries.”
    He advised that he received the resignation of two officers yesterday, one of which was a corporal. Jackson County officers start out at $32,027. With Bay County at $38,500, Washington County at $32,500 and the Florida Highway Patrol at $43,000.
    Roberts said since July 1, his department had answered 21,437 calls for the sheriff’s office alone and this did not include medical. Roberts said they have nine vacant positions as of yesterday. With that being said, Roberts said, “I’ve got four vacant positions that are hopefully going to be filled, two of them are going through the process now. It takes four months, roughly sixteen weeks to run them through the probationary field training that we put them through. Most of them have no experience at all and this could be reduced if there is some experience.” Roberts said the agencies around Jackson are at the college taking those that are finishing the program before he can get them because of the higher wages.
    He said in 2016, he lost nine positions, 12 positions in 2017, 12 positions in 2018 and a total of 21 officers have been lost as of July 2019. Roberts told the commission he knew now was not the time but he wanted to make them aware of the critical situation, “I’m gone in 12 months but it will just be someone else’s problem then. It’s not going to go away. To date, I’ve lost 21 employees in 2019, four have retired or left for another reason and 17 have left for other employment. I think I’ve lost about eight or nine to Bay County.” Roberts said it takes about $1500 to equip an officer with vests and uniform and get them certified with the training they need on to be on the road. He said he had basically spent $21,000 preparing those individuals and now they’re gone.
    Roberts said, “What I’m asking is, I know you can’t do anything today but what I’m asking to sit down with any of you, with Wilanne because we need experience. If we don’t have that, we are going to be hurting. Calls are going up, especially since the storm but we got to do something about trying to get the salaries up.”
    The Commission thanked Roberts for his time and input.

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