Clark County Sheriff’s Office Support Guild issues statement addressing staffing crisis

The statement includes an update on the CCSO vacancies, which now reportedly totals 60 positions, including 22 in support staff

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Support Guild issued a statement Thursday addressing the CCSO staffing crisis. Support Guild leadership stated that law enforcement in Clark County is “now at a crossroads.’’

On March 14, Sheriff Chuck Atkins issued a statement announcing service cuts by the CCSO due to staff shortages. Beginning March 31, Clark County patrol deputies will no longer respond to calls for several different types of service. Sheriff Atkins urged members of the Clark County Council to take immediate action on suggested staffing solutions.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Support Guild issued a statement Thursday addressing the CCSO staffing crisis.
File photo

The next day, March 15, the Deputy Sheriff’s Guild issued a statement providing additional details of the severity of the staffing crisis. 

On Thursday, Support Guild President Stephanie Legg provided Clark County Today with a statement that offered more details on efforts by the guild to engage Clark County officials in a discussion to seek a solution to the staffing crisis. The statement included new information that there are 60 total vacancies in the three branches of the CCSO, including 22 in support staff.

The statement made the claim that “County Manager Kathleen Otto and the County Councilors are not making this a priority.’’

The Deputy Sheriff’s Guild created a website (Safe Clark County) to share information on the staffing crisis with Clark County residents. Among the information provided by the guild is a comparison of salaries and incentives between the CCSO and neighboring law enforcement agencies.

A graphic in one comparison indicates the starting pay for CCSO support staff is $18.95 per hour ($39,416 per year), compared to $25.25 per hour at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and $21-25 per hour for clerical workers in private industry. The comparison indicates the top step pay for CCSO support staff is $24.24 per hour ($50,419.20), compared to $30 per hour in the VPD and $32-34 per hour.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Support Guild issued a statement Thursday addressing the CCSO staffing crisis.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Support Guild issued a statement Thursday addressing the CCSO staffing crisis.

Guild leadership have made the claim the disparity in compensation has impacted the ability of the CCSO to attract candidates for its vacant positions. The Deputy Sheriff’s Guild reports that it has had 0 applicants for corrections officers in the past 55 days and 0 applicants for enforcement officers in 30 days.

County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman has expressed support for CCSO personnel, while pointing out the members of the County Council don’t have the authority to make adjustments to salary or incentives in the Collective Bargaining Agreements between the county and the guilds. County Manager Kathleen Otto has not responded to a request from Clark County Today for information about discussions between the county and the guilds to seek a solution to the staffing crisis.

Thursday’s statement from the Sheriff’s Office Support Guild offered more insight into the communication between the guild and the county. Here is the full statement:

There is a term in the global community, “de-development.” It is characterized as a syndrome, a “process that rids an economy of much of its productive capacity and deprives its workers of the building blocks needed to rebuild a strong economic base.” It can be said of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office that it is in de-development.

After the growth of the 1990s, the agency was stopped short in 2008 and development grew stagnant. But with dogged determination, rebuilding and growth was on the horizon when the Pandemic hit in 2020 and the laws for Patrol contact and engagement were changed in 2021. All the while around us Clark County was becoming the fastest growing county in the State of Washington and our law enforcement challenges were becoming greater and more complex. We are now at a crossroads; one road leading to a crisis, rendering our agency unviable and non-functioning, and the other road leading to a state of public trust that can carry out the mandates and services our citizens rely on to keep our community safe.

Our employees in our three branches, Enforcement, Corrections and Support Services – our human resources – have worked tirelessly during the last two years as essential personnel but all energy and creativity are being expended on the survival of our operational capacity. The branches cannot function separately, they have always worked as a collaborative partnership to serve the community. The men and women of the Sheriff’s Office have always done “more with less.” But they cannot do more with nothing.

There are currently 60 vacancies in the three branches, countless people on medical leave, and more who have given notice. The hiring pipeline has dried up and retention of those that remain is our top priority. This situation could not be more dire. Our existing staff are working mandatory extended and double shifts to keep up with the demand of our coverage issues. Currently Support is down 22 positions, five cadets, two Department Information System Coordinators, one Sheriff’s Health & Safety Coordinator and fourteen Support Specialist II & Support Specialist III positions. Support has the fewest positions in the agency, yet we have the most vacancies. In the near future we are losing at least one more person to another local agency.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was designed to assist with exactly this scenario. It provides critically needed funding to essential personnel who cannot maintain the activities of their own daily living, such as childcare, grocery shopping, cleaning, yardwork, home maintenance because they simply don’t have the time or energy after four, six or eight 16 hour shifts in a row. The County has received millions of dollars in ARPA funding yet has chosen not to direct any of it to the hiring, retention and wellness of our essential staff.

So, what does this mean for you, the citizen? It means, quite simply, the things you have come to rely on from your Sheriff’s Office may not be available to you. Twenty-four hour coverage in the community may not be sustainable; protection orders may not be served; people driving recklessly and/or under the influence may not be stopped; missing people and children may not be found; stolen vehicles may not be entered into the system; people committing serious crimes may not be booked due to reduced jail population as a result of minimal staff; the inmates we do have may have their meal and laundry service curtailed; concealed pistol licenses, pistol transfers, public disclosure requests and alarm permits for homes and businesses may be significantly delayed or put on hold due to staffing.

Obviously, every operational mandate and function is prioritized and should cuts and reductions be made, we trust that the Sheriff will make them deliberately and with as much public input as possible. We do not want to do this. It is a road of last resort. However County Manager Kathleen Otto and the County Councilors are not making this a priority. The Sheriff and Undersheriff met with Otto and the Councilors on March 3, 2022. We, the four guilds within the Sheriff’s Office, were told we would be contacted by Otto. To date, we have not heard from her.

Commander KC Kasberg sent a letter to Otto and the councilors on March 15, 2022. Otto responded, “We are actively engaged with guilds and are negotiating – which I’m hopeful will be completed in the very near future.” Kathleen Otto has NOT reached out to the Support Guild or the Commanders Guild. Otto is actively negotiating with the Corrections Guild because they are currently in regular contract negotiations. The Support Guild responded, “The Support Guild has heard nothing from you, yet you state, ‘We are actively engaged with the guilds and are negotiating’.”

Only then did we get Manager Otto’s response: “Thank you for your email. We have started bargaining with the guilds/unions, but as you know, we have four bargaining groups specifically in the SO. We have started bargaining with one, have another scheduled tomorrow (they were unavailable last week) and our intention is to continue with the remaining groups.”

To date, Otto has not reached out to Support or Commanders as she states in her emails. It has been a week since she sent the emails with the quotes above.

We are losing more employees in the very near future yet the County Manager and County Council are okay with that. Councilor Bowerman stated that the Sheriff has a $68 million dollar budget. The sheriff does not have the power to give raises or incentives to his employees. Compensation is always bargained with the County, never with Sheriff’s management as Bowerman stated previously. Finger pointing will not solve this problem. The hard-working employees of the Sheriff’s Office and more importantly, the citizens of Clark County, deserve better.

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  1. Shari Strazz

    From this article it seems to state that the Council members are NOT doing their job, so why NOT call THEIR SUPERIORS or go to the Governor and ask for an other Washington County / City that may be able to SPARE a few Officers to come to Clark County temporarily at THEIR REGULAR PAY from their City / County and FILL AT LEAST 1/3 if the positions open. OR ….. REMOVE THOSE WHO ARE IN PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE and put them back to WORK!

  2. Kermit

    Why don’t we look for people in other states like California, Some of whom are looking for ways to move north here:)

  3. Once a sheriffs employee

    The problem has and continues to be lack of leadership. When Political correctness is more important than people things turn sour. Closing the jail work center, covid and the toxic leadership is why this is going on. Records people for decades have not been happy in the job (poor leadership breeds discontent) each persons ego and pride dictates their decisions instead of letting the best decision move forward. My brother was rejected in the background phase THANK GOD. He was hired by another agency where he now conducts background checks on those being hired. Nothing will change unless PC goes away but since we have no integrity in most so called leaders it will stay toxic and people will leave. When you have a sheriff who removes the flag from the booking sally port because it might offend someone they are spineless and bend a knee to the WOKE MOB. Fools and sheep. There are many outstanding people in all the areas but they are unable to lead because of the toxic PC culture. Just look at Portland.


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