The King County Council approved hiring a recruiter for the Sheriff’s Office in an effort to fill 54 vacant deputy positions due to increasing resignations.
A total of $248,000 was added to a COVID-19 supplemental budget to fund the recruiter position, according to a July 27 media release from King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, District 9.
So far in 2021, 50 deputies have resigned, putting this year’s resignations on track to surpass the 69 resignations that occurred in 2020, which was a 42% increase from 2019, Dunn said.
Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer, District 7, sponsored the budget amendment to add the new recruiting position.
“Amid low morale, lack of resources, and officer burnout, it’s been extremely challenging for the Sheriff’s Office to attract high-quality candidates—and as a result, many critical positions have been left unfilled,” Dunn said. “Now more than ever, we need good deputies who have a heart for the job and a drive to build positive relationships in their community. A recruiter makes it much more realistic that we will fill the 54 vacant deputy positions with men and women who will wear the sheriff’s badge with honor.”
The Sheriff’s Office is struggling to fill entry-level deputy positions, making it challenging to adequately staff even basic patrol duties. The current recruitment challenges reflect a broader nationwide trend of increased difficulties recruiting new police officers.
“With crime rates rising across our region, investing in public safety is a top priority,” von Reichbauer said. “It is critical that the Sheriff’s Office has the resources it needs to fill its vacancies quickly, and that King County is a good partner with our contract cities who rely on the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement in their communities.”
Covington, SeaTac, Burien and Maple Valley are among the cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.
Since January of this year, the Sheriff’s Office has received 351 entry-level applications. Only 79 of those candidates, who represent 22% of the applications received, were eligible to be hired due to criteria regarding basic qualifications such as a clean criminal history and good health.
In addition to these hiring challenges, a wave of deputy resignations has followed last year’s charter amendments that made the King County sheriff an appointed position, Dunn said. In addition, statewide police reforms have caused confusion and hesitation among law enforcement officers about how to perform their job.