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Staff shortages at the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office

John McNeill
Kalamazoo County Sheriff Rick Fuller, surrounded by deputies, at a news conference last August for Sgt. Ryan Proxmire who was killed in the line of duty. Sheriff Fuller believes the dangers law enforcement officers face on the job are contributing to the shortage in staff.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office says more than one in five jobs in the department is unfilled. KCSO is taking new measures to encourage more people to apply.

Come work for the sheriff’s office. That’s the message in Kalamazoo County where the KCSO said more than one in five positions is vacant throughout the department.

Sheriff Richard Fuller said the jail is operating with about 30 percent of its positions open. It’s also short eighteen deputies out of 53 total. Kalamazoo County isn’t alone. Many organizations across the country face a similar staffing crisis. Fuller said the shortage is taxing his current employees and ultimately making it harder to serve the public.

“So sadly, the deputies are working multiple shifts, they’re working extra hours and at the same time we are taking a longer response to non-emergency calls,” said Fuller.

Fuller said at some point emergency calls will take longer too, with so many law enforcement agencies short on staff.

“And at the same time, there are no large numbers of people going to the police academies to become a police officer,” Fuller said.

So Fuller said the sheriff’s office is now offering to pay to send potential deputies to the police academy. Those costs run about $35,000 a person. It’s a burden, Fuller said, one that his budget wasn’t designed to bear.

“We didn’t used to have to send people to police academies. People would send themselves to a police academy,” said Fuller.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office hopes to recruit for other positions as well. That includes position in the jail, where about 30 percent of the jobs are unfilled.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.