King County councilmembers secure funding to hire more sheriff’s deputies

Jul 29, 2021, 9:31 AM
police oversight, king county sheriff, hate crime unit...
(Photo courtesy of the King County Sheriff's Office)
(Photo courtesy of the King County Sheriff's Office)

King County’s eighth COVID-19 supplemental budget, approved this week by the county council, includes funding for a new, full-time King County Sheriff’s Office recruiter.

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The new position, according to a release from the county council, “is key to filling the 54 deputy positions that have been sitting vacant.” This is also in response to staffing shortages and ongoing recruitment challenges at the KCSO.

The $248,000 in added funding for KCSO was provided through an amendment to the budget sponsored by councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer.

“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 in a written release. “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 KCSO is not alone in its struggles to fill entry-level deputy positions and recruit new officers, as this matches a trend seen locally — including in the Seattle Police Department — and nationwide.

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Since January 2021, the KCSO received 351 entry-level applications, but only 79 candidates were eligible to be hired due to criteria regarding basic qualifications, like a clean criminal history and good health.

In addition to the hiring challenges that already exist, the release from the county council says there has been a wave of deputy resignations at the KCSO following last year’s charter amendment that made the King County Sheriff an appointed position. In 2020, KCSO saw a 42% increase in resignations. In 2021, 50 deputies have resigned so far, putting 2021 resignations on track to pass the 69 resignations in 2020.

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King County councilmembers secure funding to hire more sheriff’s deputies