The four new slots for patrol deputies have been filled by Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds, and the next move is to hire two Animal Control officers.
Deeds said four male reserve deputies were switched to full-time status and began to work into the patrol rotation as of Monday, Oct. 1.
One of the deputies will go through the complete field training program. Two of them will have reduced field training because of previous experience. The fourth one has already completed his full training.
Applications are still being taken to fill the two new Animal Control positions. When those spots are filled, plans are being made to extend the hours for the Animal Control facility, at 240 Bray Street, according to Deeds and Captain A.T. Vines, who oversees Animal Control.
County Commissioners approved the money for the six new Sheriff’s Office employees. Deeds said he now has 51 paid deputies, including 28 in the patrol division.
Deeds said he was happy with the approval even though he also requested money to hire new transportation officers and was denied. He said he asks for new deputies every year, but doesn’t always have his wishes fulfilled.
“We’ve come up (in numbers of deputies) since I’ve been in office (starting Jan. 1, 2009), – and the caseload has, too,” Deeds said. “This will give us a way to better cover all the thousands of calls we get.”
He indicated the need was great.
The sheriff noted that his deputies responded to 31,448 calls for service between September 2011 and September of this year. Deputies responded to 865 assist calls and 362 EMS calls during that time frame, he said.
Deeds said he feels the county’s population is continuing to grow, and “there is no end in sight. My workload increases, also.
“Our patrol guys just run from call to call to call. We want to try to keep from burning out some of these people. It’s everything from criminal mischief to murder. Some calls are quick, some are long and drawn out.
“They’re all important, so we get to them as fast as we can get there.”
Deputies must also deal with building checks, close patrols, traffic control, loose stock calls, paperwork and countless other assorted tasks along the way.
“I’d love to have another dozen people; it’s that busy of a county,” Deeds said, noting that the peak times more deputies are needed are usually from about 6 p.m.-2 a.m.
Patrol shifts last 12 hours. Deeds said that, eventually, there will be one of the new deputies on each shift.
Deeds said he would like to have even more deputies, but knows all about the realities of budget crunching.
“I would like to have probably a dozen more, to give us an even number on each shift,” Deeds said.
Deeds said that his department will “make due with the cars we have” and not have to purchase new ones at this time. Patrol deputies do not take a Sheriff’s Office vehicle home with them while off duty, Deeds explained.
The sheriff said that because the starting salary for a rookie patrol deputy in Hood County is $31,209, he loses some of his personnel to larger communities and counties that pay more.
“Until we get the pay higher, I feel like I’m a training ground,” Deeds said. “There are cities that pay a lot more than we do here. There are places in the Metroplex that pay close to $50,000 a year, starting out. We lost two this year to cities in Johnson County. We can’t compete with that.”
For now, though, he expects things to be better with the new hires.
“I’m positive we’ll be able to respond to people’s emergencies faster than we could before,” he said. “We have more (deputies) to do patrols and protect property. Overall, it will make Hood County a much safer area.”
Despite the number of people looking for work, finding the right fit for the Animal Control positions isn’t easy, according to Deeds.
Even though Animal Control employees are not required to have full certification as a peace officer, they must earn a jailer’s license, and cannot have a criminal record. They supervise inmate labor details sometimes at the facility, and also have access to classified information.
“One of our main goals is to have longer hours (at least one day a week) and for (weekend) pet adoption events,” Deeds said.
After the two Animal Control slots are filled, there are tentative plans to extend the hours the facility will stay open, at least one day during the week. The facility will also eventually be open for part of the day on Saturdays. That will make it possible to be open hours other than the current time frame, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“There was a pretty big group of vocal citizens really working on the commissioners. I was glad to see it (approved),” Deeds said of the additional Animal Control positions.
Those Animal Control jobs are also full time, 40 hours per week. No hiring deadline has been set, but Deeds said it would be done “as soon as possible.”
Deeds said he is also looking for new jailers.
Hood County’s specific law enforcement needs are not necessarily comparable to other nearby counties, the sheriff said.
“I think this is normal for Hood County,” Deeds said. “It is what it is, and we’re going to deal with it. We’re here to serve.”
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