MONROE COUNTY, Ga. — It's been almost 5 months since Brad Freeman took office as Monroe County Sheriff. A big part of his campaign was a push to hire more deputies.
Stephen Phipps is a few months in working as a deputy for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. "Like everyone knows, it's call to call to call."
He's no stranger to law enforcement, though -- he worked for the Bibb County Sheriff's Office for 10 years as a patrol officer until he decided it was time for a change of pace. "This department is very family-oriented. That brings -- especially in this type of field -- it brings everyone together to do the job and it makes it fun."
Phipps is one of 5 new deputies to join the team. When Brad Freeman became sheriff, the department was short 21 employees. That includes 911 call center dispatchers and deputies.
The hiring process is an uphill battle in law enforcement. "You can ask any sheriff or police chief in the Middle Georgia area, or probably the nationwide, and they are going to tell you they are short, and they are having trouble filling positions. Everyone seems to be hiring," says Freeman.
Freeman says they are making progress, but he still needs to fill 14 spots. The hiring process is tough, especially since pay is low and the public can be harsh on officers just doing their jobs.
"They just always want to 'armchair quarterback' us -- they say, 'You could've done it better,' and just don't get that when you work in other fields," says Freeman.
It's challenging, but Freeman says he isn't lowering his hiring standards.
Being a deputy here requires making it through the one-year "probation" period, which is a training process before they can go out into the field.
Freeman says that's where he loses them, and Phipps agrees -- you need passion. "This isn't for the weak-hearted. You have to have a passion to do this and it has to be something that burns within you," says Phipps.
While Freeman says it's a good feeling to have 5 new quality deputies like Phipps, they just need more.
The sheriff's office is working to try to raise salaries for officers by looking into getting education training supplements for officers with extra training or schooling.