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‘To only have four out there, it has become the norm’: Kzoo Co. Sheriff’s Office impacted by labor shortage

Posted at 8:26 PM, Oct 06, 2021

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — Early Monday morning (Oct. 4) in Comstock Township, a man walked into a gas station on 35th Street near I-94 and asked the clerks to call 9-1-1. The man then spoke to dispatch and told law enforcement to come.

One deputy arrived.

The exchanged at the gas station turned into a deadly deputy-involved shooting. Sheriff Richard Fuller announced in a press conference later that day that Michigan State Police has since taken over the investigation and he offered his condolences to the family.

He also mentioned that that morning, there were only four deputies working, covering all of Kalamazoo County.

“To only have four [deputies] out there, it has become the norm,” Sheriff Fuller said during an interview on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 6). “The need is greater than most people will pay attention to when it comes to the number of personnel to handle the different types of calls [and] the numbers of calls.”

Sheriff Fuller said that ideally he’d like to have 10 deputies per shift. However, it doesn’t fit in the budget. So, they’ve made some adjustments.

“We’ve had to adjust schedules. We’ve gone to 8-hour [shifts] to 12-hour shifts and back to 8s, according to what the need is,” Sheriff Fuller said. “We’ve had to force some people over for overtime. We’ve had to force some people in for overtime.”

However the need is still great, he said. Currently, there’s 46 vaccines at the jail, which includes medical leave, and 12 for patrol, which includes administrative leave.

“The jail is the most significantly impacted by COVID-19,” Sheriff Fuller said. “Currently, we have 21 staff members out with an infection. That’s the highest level that we’ve had. That’s roughly 37 percent of the workforce in the jail is out with COVID 19.”

Sheriff Fuller added that they have been interviewing candidates, sometimes two or three people a day. However, that’s been challenging too.

“We’re doing what we can to incentivize people to come here. A lot of younger applicants are not always looking for the retirement benefits or the sick time or the insurance benefits,” he said. “So, what we try to do is make it clear how important these things are when we have them here to talk and it’s worked to some level.”

They’re also sending more of their staff to academies if they’ve expressed a desire to switch from booking or administrative work to the enforcement side, he said.

However, as dire as circumstances are, Sheriff Fuller believes it to be a cycle and expects things to pick up again soon.

“While there’s shortages in fire services, nursing, teaching — all these are what I would say are primary needs — we need all of these positions,” Sheriff Fuller said. “I want people to understand while we are short right now. I think it’s going to come back around. But, it’s going to take a lot of people working together.”

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