Thursday, there was a call for deputies in Hernando County. The sheriff said he’s having a hard time finding quality people to protect and serve. While the department is facing several challenges, they’re offering incentives to keep people safe.
Lisa Sirois moved to Hernando County because it's quiet, but recent crime in the area has her on edge.
“Lately, the people next to us had some things taken out of their barn. The guy next to us, someone cut his fence trying to get his cattle out, and we’ve had cars and trucks driving up and down checking out the houses,” said Sirois.
Sirois says more deputies in her area would make her feel safe. Sheriff Al Nienhuis says he’d love to provide that, but says he doesn’t have enough deputies to begin with.
“Even if we’re fully-staffed, we have less deputies than most agencies our size,” said Nienhuis.
With more than 20 openings, the sheriff says a county like Hernando should be looking to hire about 60 more deputies. The problem is finding quality workers. Nienhuis says the people applying either don’t meet the standards to become a deputy, or they lie on their application.
“Often times, some of the things they’re not honest about wouldn’t keep them from getting the job, but because they weren’t honest, we have to question their integrity,”he said.
The openings within the department are partly due to people who’ve retired within the last year. In the meantime, deputies are stretched so thin, they’re working overtime and have to choose which calls to respond to first.
“These guys put their life on the line for us; they should be well paid,” Sirois said.
People we spoke to suggested increasing incentives and expanding the search in other states. Nienhuis says it’s ultimately about safety and says he’s offering the most he can for what the budget allows.
“You’re never going to get rich in law enforcement. It’s more of a calling, but I think when you go home at the end of the day, you can feel like you made a difference,” said Nienhuis.
Starting salary for deputies is more than $41,000. They’re given yearly raises with great benefits.
“We offer very competitive benefits which include medical, dental, vision, life insurance, tuition reimbursement, state retirement and much more,” said Human Resources Manager, Barbara Gisondi.
Deputy Carmita Hadley started with the department in September and says she could worked for another agency making more money, but picked Hernando instead. She says, for her, it’s about quality of life.
“I would rather work with somebody that I could look at and say good morning, rather than be a number," she said. "I’m not a number here."
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