Snohomish County Sheriff cut back on services due to staff shortages

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday they have to scale back specialty units due to staffing shortages.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney says in the last three weeks, four deputies have gone to the hospital, and he says there have been three instances of responding deputies being attacked while back up is far away.

Fortney says criminals are emboldened, and there is a staff shortage of deputies. He says due to the circumstances cuts have to happen.

Starting in the middle of June, the office's K-9, Directed Patrol, and Office of Neighborhood units will temporarily be dissolved.

Directed Patrol is a proactive policing unit that focuses on reducing criminal activity, arresting warrant subjects and patrolling the county. Officials say the unit gets a lot of illegal drugs and illegal firearms off the streets.

The Office of Neighborhoods unit is a homeless outreach team who partners with social workers and the county.

The K-9 unit tracks and locates criminals and is used by several police departments throughout the county.

Officials with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office say there have been 30 deputies who have retired or quit so far in 2022. The average amount of deputies who leave is 20 a year.

There is also an increase in felony crimes in the county.

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According to numbers, in the first quarter of 2022, there were 820 Felony B Cases. In comparison, each quarter of 2019 saw between 630-666 Felony B cases.

"We feel overwhelmed. Like, I said, I don’t see a good; there is no hope in sight right now. We keep losing people we can’t hire enough people as you saw; I believe this is a last resort from Sheriff Fortney," said Sergeant Jonathan Krajcar.

Krajcar is a sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. He is also the president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

Krajcar tells FOX 13 News the staffing shortage creates challenges for deputies’ trying to do their job.

"I’ve had to tell people after hours of them waiting, that their house got broken into, that it’s going to take me a while to get there. To us, that’s kind of a bad feeling because we want to deliver that community service, what we signed dup to do," said Krajcar.

He says hopefully this change will help with overtime issues, as well as help reduce emergency call wait times. However, he says losing these specialty units will have a big impact on the community as well.

Fortney says he expects the dissolution of these specialty units to be temporary, lasting about six months to a year.

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Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring told FOX 13 News he stands with Fortney in this decision. In a statement, he said:

"I support Sheriff Fortney’s decision to reassign multiple specialty units back to patrol. While these specialty units are invaluable, we are currently facing a staffing crisis in law enforcement which puts both officers and the general public at risk. The statewide staffing crisis is a predictable consequence of decisions made at the state level, including harmful legislation which is emboldening criminals, the de facto legalization of hard drugs, and a general anti-police sentiment from several prominent leaders. If we want to keep our communities safe, we must start by demanding change from elected leaders so that our state becomes a place where law enforcement can do their jobs properly. We all want to see these specialty units return as soon as possible, but that will only happen when we resolve the significant staffing crisis we face."  

On Wednesday, Fortney, Nehring, Councilmember Sam Low, and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Matt Baldock will hold a town hall at the Marysville Operate House on public safety.