EATONTON, Ga. — Police staffing shortages have been affecting larger cities in Central Georgia, like Warner Robins, where more than 40 police jobs are vacant.
However, small towns are hurting too.
Sheriff Howard Sills saying they have more patrol cars than people to drive them.
"We're in a time of crisis,” says Sheriff Sills.
He says law enforcement shortages are a problem everywhere, but he hasn't seen it this bad in half a century.
“I can tell you that we’re about a third short of our workforce. We're short on 911 dispatch, we're short on jail staff, and we're tremendously short on the street,” he explains. “We're not seeing any relief in it, really.”
Sills says county commissioners have increased deputies starting pay to $45,000– not including overtime wages– but he says this is the start of a bidding war.
"Why are you going to go to work here for $45,000 if you can go to work in Jones county for $50,000, or you can go to work in Brookhaven for 40 thousand more dollars a year,” Sills said.
Sills says he just had two deputies quit recently. One, due to being recruited by the GBI– which he says happens often because he says it’s a less dangerous line of work. He says the second one quit due to not wanting to be in law enforcement anymore.
The sheriff says lack of personnel has left his staff stretched thin and forced to work extreme overtime. He says he's been having to fill in on patrolling duties himself.
Sills explains that they're managing for now, but “We may not be able to answer things in the future. I don’t want it to get like that.”
Sills says anti-police messages in the media have discouraged job applicants.
"Law enforcement in America has been destroyed in the last two and a half years. We have been demonized and no one wants to do this. No one. I haven't had a decent applicant in-- I don't remember when,” Sills says.
Mozelle Mckay has lived in Putnam County for four decades.
"I feel very safe and content,” she says.
Mckay says she's shocked to hear of the law enforcement shortage, but she's not too worried.
"I think if they handle it real well now and stay on top of the problems-- I believe it'll work out okay.".
Sills says the search for employees isn't over and he has faith.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is currently looking for deputies, jail officers, and 9-1-1 dispatchers.
Applications are available at the office or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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