Polk County Sheriff speaks concerned that staffing levels are impacting citizens safety

July 12, 2014
Polk County Sheriff concerned about staffing levels, safety of citizens

News Release from Polk Co. Sheriff's Office
Polk County Sheriff Bob Wolfe continues to express concern regarding the ability of his agency to handle calls and provide back up to local agencies due to loss of staff and budget reductions. Sheriff Bob Wolfe stated, "Since July of last year we have lost several experienced deputies and reduced our patrol hours to just 10 hours per day in March of this year" 

Staffing levels for the patrol division on July 1, of this year is now at 6 deputies and 3 sergeants. Last year at this time we had 14 deputies and 4 sergeants. In the last twelve months the sheriff's office has eliminated a forestry patrol deputy, one patrol sergeant, four contract deputies assigned to Grand Ronde, along with the retirement of a 22 year veteran deputy and two additional deputies cut from the budget beginning July 1st. 

Between March 29th and June 30th there have been 485 calls from citizens requesting a deputy to respond during the hours in which no deputies are on duty. The calls range from domestic disturbances to reckless drivers on the highways. On July 6th a domestic resulted in Yamhill County Sheriff's Office having to detain a male subject who was shooting a firearm, setting off fireworks in his house that caught the house on fire while intoxicated. At the request of Yamhill County a patrol sergeant was called out of bed to come to the scene and take custody of this subject who was lodged in Polk County Jail. 

"We appreciate Yamhill County responding to stabilize this serious situation and understand this tied up multiple deputies while they waited for my sergeant to get up, get dressed and respond from his home", stated Sheriff Bob Wolfe. This is a perfect example of the impacts of a delayed response to serious situations. Over the last week dispatchers have called patrol sergeants out of bed to respond to domestics and fights, several involving firearms. The potential for things to go really bad on these delayed calls continues to increase as responding deputies have to wake up, get the details, get dressed then drive with lights and siren to the scene. 

Next week, another deputy will be leaving to accept a position with the Marion County Sheriff's Office. "This is bittersweet, we are happy for him, but we lose another deputy with 10 years of experience to another agency because unless stabilized funding is established, more lay-offs will occur one year from now" stated Sheriff Bob Wolfe. 

A noticeable change with less hours of patrol coverage and less deputies has been a 30% reduction in warrants being served. "I know for a fact some citizens are not calling us about problems they are having because they know we are short handed. This is not good because this only allows individuals intent on committing crimes to feel more confident they will not be caught" stated Sheriff Bob Wolfe 

This week Polk County Sheriff's Office investigates a drive by shooting, something not common in Polk County with limited resources and only during the 10 hours a day that deputies are on duty along with handling other calls.