CLARK COUNTY, WA – On Monday, Clark County, Washington Sheriff Chuck Atkins issued a statement regarding calls for service that would no longer be handled by a uniformed deputy due to an extreme staffing shortage.

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This comes as the county also recently had to lessen the area of response due to staffing shortages, taking away response to the northern portion of the county. Recently, the City of Vancouver also annexed portions of the County for police response and revenue purposes.

The Sheriff laid out exactly what crimes would leave a victim without a deputy’s response. Aside from the impact on the quality of life this will have on our residents, it has told criminals exactly which crimes they can commit with little chance of consequence, informing them of their limitations. As long as they stay below a certain threshold and keep their face covered, they essentially have free reign.

The Sheriff listed:

  • misdemeanor theft of property less than $750;
  • theft from a vehicle when there’s no suspect information;
  • damage or vandalism of property when there’s no suspect information;
  • minor crimes at schools, such as behavioral problems, property damage and fighting;
  • harassing phone calls that are not life-threatening, except for domestic violence or stalking;
  • scams or identity theft valued less than $5,000;
  • minor assaults;
  • informational reports;
  • lost or found property that does not pose a safety concern, except for found drugs or weapons;
  • trespassing on public lands, unoccupied county lands or state lands or when the property owner doesn’t want to press charges;
  • traffic, parking and neighborhood complaints when there’s no crime;
  • welfare checks when there’s no observed crime or threat to the public.

The newly appointed chairman of the Clark County Council, Karen Bowerman, spoke with local news outlet The Columbian after the Sheriff made his announcement. She reportedly passed the buck, as The Columbian reported, “[S]olutions to the staffing shortage would be a part of collective bargaining with the Clark County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild and that the council only has authority over the agency’s budget. She agreed staffing levels are critical and said she hopes contract negotiations are going well.”

However, when Red Voice Media reached out to Mrs. Bowerman, she had more to say on the matter: “The Sheriff’s Office administration has been informed by the Council, County Manager and Human Resources that the Council fully supports the Sheriff’s Office – with both verbal affirmation as well as establishing financial parameters. There are legally mandated processes that must be followed. Due to this process, we are unable to divulge specific information at this time but will provide an update in the very near future.”

The Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy guild also put out a statement. The guild said that Sheriff Atkins brought the staffing crisis to the attention of the County Council, as well as the County Manager Kathleen Otto, on March 2 of this year.

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“For years,” the guild statement said, “law enforcement agencies in our local area and across the nation have been creative and proactive in their efforts to recruit and retain adequate and safe staffing levels. CCSO employees have pushed for our county to provide similar incentives for the past few years, but our requests have not been heard. In the past year, despite our department’s attempts at recruitment efforts, we have seen our applicant pool diminish to non-existent. More alarming, we are now seeing our employees leave our agency in droves to other local agencies who offer hiring bonuses and incentive packages that show a dedication to public safety. CCSO employees can currently lateral to local agencies within Clark County and make twenty percent more in salary and be provided a $25,000 signing bonus.”

A source told Red Voice Media that there are five CCSO deputies in the background hiring process with the City of Vancouver, just as an example of how actively deputies are looking for other positions.

The guild’s statement continued, “We have stood by and watched as low staffing levels in the jail have caused significant limitations on which types and degrees of crimes for which criminals can be arrested and housed in the Clark County Jail. The un-safe numbers of deputies on patrol has caused frequent instances of temporary service cuts and likely upcoming long-term service cuts to the crimes we are able to safely respond to. The result, more criminals and less deputies on the streets.”

The staffing crisis in Clark County has been brewing for years, has reached a breaking point in the past year, and will continue to show a decline in the quality of life until the agency receives the funding it needs to operate safely and effectively.

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