Pierce County Sheriff's Department Staffing Shortage Impacting Response Times

A message from Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor addresses staffing concerns.

Pierce County, WA: This past weekend, Evergreen Media Production in conjunction with Key News Network covered a tragic crash in the city of Parkland.

In that incident, 69-year-old Patricia Williamson with six kids and 15 grandchildren was hit by a white van and killed while driving along South 138th. The driver of that white van, 30-year-old Daniel Paul Fullerton, took off from that scene.

Our photographers noted that there was an extreme delay in the response time from the Sheriff's Office. We listened to audio from the fire department on their radios and they were expressing frustration in the long response time.

Sheriff Paul Pastor shared a message on Facebook Tuesday that the community should hear. In part he said "Over this past week, we have really had to stretch to cover all of our patrol shifts. We pulled people in on mandatory overtime. This carried financial costs. It also involved costs in terms of our personnel, their families and their ability to recover and reset.

For the past six weeks call volume and the seriousness of calls (homicides, armed robberies with victims shot, fatality hit and runs) have ramped up. This really impacted us at a time when 17 % of our total sworn staff are out on leave for illness, injury, military or family reasons or in the training process.

We are experiencing a general increase in overall demand as we deal with public order issues relating to homelessness and addiction. Plus, we are being given more responsibilities from unfunded mandates and the transfer of additional responsibilities from other County offices to our Department."

The Sheriff cites that for the 2020-2021 biennium budget he requested an additional 22 deputies to be added to their ranks, in turn they received 2 sworn deputies and 3 civilian personnel. That is far less than the recommended 56 additional personnel from a public safety staffing study conducted for Pierce County.

In turn, the sheriff has asked command staff to re-configure people from special assignments to patrol spots to bolster the number of deputies on the road. "It will reduce some of the important law enforcement services those units provide but the sheriff views patrol response to emergency calls as extremely important."

The Sheriff ends his open letter with this, "Perhaps we have grown too good at being efficient. We have certainly felt the costs of our efficiency over the past few weeks. Perhaps, with the public’s help, we could be provided the resources to allow an already very efficient agency to be even more effective."

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