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The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is having trouble recruiting deputies. Here's why

hamilton county sheriff's deputies in lincoln heights
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
Hamilton County Sheriff Deputies speak with a Lincoln Heights residents at the National Night Out Event.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is one of many departments across the country having trouble attracting officers.

Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey says there are a lot of reasons why it's become difficult to fill the roughly 50 to 60 positions the sheriff's office needs to be at full staffing — the labor market, overtime policies and social justice issues in policing.

McGuffey says the spotlight on incidents like the murder of George Floyd have caused more people to question whether they want to get into law enforcement.

"As soon as those things started coming to light and the community saw that there are some police officers who aren't doing the right thing and then started holding them accountable — well, you know what? You're going to have people question," she said. "And we have to get this thing right."

McGuffey says she's committed to finding officers who will do the job well and justly. The Sheriff's Office has retained a recruitment firm to find the best candidates.

Hiring efforts also include reassessing pay and scheduling and something McGuffey says is unique in the state — paying for recruits' police academy training. That's usually something prospective officers fund themselves.

"We are sending these people to a police academy on our dime, our time," she said. "No other sheriff in the state of Ohio is doing that. I'm doing it and now other sheriffs are starting to catch on."

Another big issue is the tight labor market right now, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus says. That makes it harder to fully staff the Sheriffs Office, even when funding isn't a problem.

"This is not a money issue," she said. "This is an issue of getting people in a very difficult market. And it's not an issue specific to Hamilton County. This is happening all over the country."

The lack of staff contributed to a reduction in the jail's intake capacity for several hours the night of Jan. 22 and early morning hours of Jan. 23, when the Sheriff's Office asked local law enforcement agencies to cite and release misdemeanor offenders instead of bringing them to the jail.

The Hamilton County Justice Center was missing 20 of its usual 59-person staff due to sick days and hospital runs for people who are incarcerated there. Officers worked overtime and moved from other departments to fill the gaps.

Nick Swartsell is a general assignment reporter for WVXU. Before his current role, he worked on the station’s Cincinnati Edition program as assistant producer and was a journalist for outlets in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Texas prior to that. When he’s not reporting, he likes exploring places he probably shouldn’t on his bike, taking photos, and growing corn, tomatoes and peppers that are, in all honesty, much too hot for any practical use. He is from Hamilton. You can find him at @nswartsell on Twitter.