The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is facing a labor shortage, and the Sheriff says it’s not limited to the Lake Area.
“It’s a nationwide epidemic. If you watch the national news, the de-fund the police thing…it’s all across the nation” says Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox, “I’ve lost most of my staff after they’ve been trained and decide to move on to better paying districts…I don’t blame them at all, you have to support your family.”
He tells KRMS News people aren’t lining up to be police officers and fire fighters the way they used to “I’ve had staff that left to go work in factories. The jobs pay well, they have better benefits and you’re not getting shot at.”
Sheriff Knox says one of his biggest concerns is that criminals are becoming more emboldened to commit crimes with the idea law enforcement might not be able to respond in time – or at all.
He says people in rural areas are expressing their concerns and Knox fears some will end up taking the law into their own hands if necessary.
More from the Sheriff:
I feel it is my duty to reach out to you, the citizens of Benton County, and let you know that the Sheriff’s Office is short staffed to the point of nearly working only life threatening calls. I accepted the resignation of our seventh deputy recently. I am short two more deputies who have injuries, for a total of NINE (9) down. We have a total of seventeen POST certified positions with three of those serving as court security, transport and administration.
You can do the math…very few of your local protectors to cover a county of 753 square miles, but they are doing everything they can.
I would ask that you please be kind to your dispatchers. I understand that individuals are calling back in, wondering why law enforcement hasn’t made it to their call yet. We must work life threatening calls first and take the remainder in order of receipt. Some will complain about me putting these facts out to you for fear that the criminal element will know how short staffed we are. I would like nothing better than for this information not to be public, but I feel it is important for me, as your elected official, to be transparent with you. You have a right to know what’s going on in your elected offices. Unfortunately, I can also assure you that the criminal element already knows how short we are, who is working and how many are on duty.
Law Enforcement agencies all across the nation are experiencing shortages of staff. If you follow the news, you will see it is more significant in some other areas. Benton County is currently the shortest staffed of the Mid-Missouri Sheriff’s Offices. The latest resignations included a move to factory work; retirement for better benefits, and a young man who was hired by the Missouri State Highway Patrol after being offered a $19,000 pay raise and state benefits. I am actively recruiting to fill the vacant positions as quickly as possible.
On a different note, I try to bring light to our unsung heroes, the dispatchers and our volunteer fire fighters who risk their lives and donate their time for the safety of the community. There is one person that I have only mentioned in passing as I described a crime scene, or talked about a case. I would like to recognize your county coroner, Weston Miller. Weston is a humble man, quiet and professional, his job is as thankless as they come.
Weston responds to every deceased person in our county, often times with no notice, for a salary of just over $17,000 annually. I want to thank Weston for everything he does and for being there for our community. If you should happen to see him out and about, please thank him for doing a sometimes heart wrenching job that no one else wants to do.