News Flash

Sheriff's Office

Posted on: January 16, 2020

Sheriff Honsal calls attention to critical staffing shortage, recruitment struggles

Five deputy sheriffs smiling for a photo in a field

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is facing a critical staffing shortage of sheriff’s deputies and is bolstering efforts to recruit motivated, quality, career-minded deputies to serve our community.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently understaffed by 17 full-time deputies. Due to this shortage, sheriff’s deputies have entered into an emergency 12-hour shift schedule and many deputies have been required to work overtime in an effort to continue providing efficient and responsive services to the residents of Humboldt County.

Various factors have impacted the current staffing situation, including recruitment struggles, retirement and turnover, and a changing outlook on the career of law enforcement.

“We are proud to have many career-deputies who have served their entire profession with our agency,” Sheriff Honsal said. “However, many of those deputies have reached or are nearing retirement. While many of them have chosen to stay on with our department in an extra-help, part-time capacity filling auxiliary roles, we continue to see a large gap growing in our patrol force.”

As the gap in staffing increases with each retirement, it’s compounded by turnover. The Sheriff’s Office continues to see deputies accepting positions at other law enforcement agencies outside of Humboldt County or leaving the profession altogether due to more competitive pay.

Citing a recent move by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to increase wages and benefits for their sheriff’s deputies by approximately 30 percent, Sheriff Honsal says a similar investment is much needed to help recruit and retain experienced law enforcement officers. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has been working in conjunction with Sheriff Honsal to explore compensation increases for sheriff’s deputies.

“Mendocino County is making a good decision investing in their most essential front-line employees. Our deputies here in Humboldt County are in line for a similar compensation package,” Sheriff Honsal said. “I’ve been working with our Board of Supervisors on this issue and they have been very supportive of competitive pay for our deputies. We can’t keep losing experienced officers to other agencies, especially with the challenging work that my deputies do.”

While competitive compensation for deputies is needed, it’s just one part of the struggle to recruit and retain staff. Thanks to the overwhelming support of Humboldt County voters, Measure Z passed in 2014 allowing the Sheriff’s Office to open more deputy positions to address a staffing crisis at the time. That sales tax benefiting public safety was renewed in 2018 as Measure O. While the positions are there and open, filling them is another challenge.

With a nationwide shortage of peace officers and applicants, Humboldt County recruiters have a tough job. Background investigators for the Sheriff’s Office report much fewer applicants to our agency than in years past. Those applicants are still required to meet the same standards for hire, despite the small applicant pool. For those that do meet the standards, the hiring process can take up to six months. If the candidate is hired on in the recruit level position, it takes another six months for the recruit to successfully complete the Basic Law Enforcement Academy. The Sheriff’s Office currently has seven deputy recruits participating in the 125th College of the Redwoods Basic Law Enforcement Academy Class, who will be ready to begin Field Training with the department mid-June.    

“It would be great if we could fill every open position, as the voters intended by passing Measure Z and Measure O. The only way to do that and have a high-quality department is to be able to recruit quality deputies and retain our most experienced staff,” Honsal said.

The Sheriff’s Office is recruiting for deputies at all levels of experience. Successful deputy recruit applicants are eligible to receive a full scholarship covering Basic Academy costs, in addition to receiving regular wages while attending the Academy. Current peace officers who join the Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sheriff II are eligible to receive a $12,000 hiring bonus.

To learn more about careers with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office visit humboldtsheriff.org.

To speak with a recruiter regarding becoming a sheriff’s deputy, call Lt. Mike Fridley at 707-268-3608 or email mfridley@co.humboldt.ca.us.

To see all open positions with the County of Humboldt visit humboldtgov.org/jobs.

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