Anderson County (WVLT) - Soon there'll be more pairs of eyes patrolling the streets of Anderson County. The County Commission's given Sheriff Paul White the OK to immediately hire six new deputies, but that's less than half the number he's asked for.
Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy has looked into this and what it means for the safety of those in and around Anderson County.
Sheriff White calls the additions a bandaid, a temporary solution, not a permanent fix. Originally, he requested 16 new deputies during budget discussions. The commission agreed to eight. Those would be phased in two per quarter through the fiscal year. The sheriff's already hired two officers. Now he can fill the remaining six right away, but overworked patrol officers say that's not good enough. Patrol Officer Barry Bunch needs help.
"Some days you go call to call to call all day. The whole shift--just taking calls," Bunch said.
And one just came in.
"Possibly an armed man with a weapon. He's assaulted his wife," Bunch said.
In the race against time.
"We ran better than 10 minutes we're still not there," Bunch said.
He doesn't make it.
"Of course we've got officers there now," Bunch said.
And Bunch says it's the number of Anderson County Sheriff Deputies that's the problem.
"As far as patrol officers, there's really not many more than there was in 1986," Bunch said.
That's 26 officers behind the wheel to patrol nearly 350 miles.
"The patrol section of the department's terribly understaffed," Captain Avery Johnson said.
The Sheriff's Department's hired two new officers since June.
"It's not that we're against the sheriff," County Commissioner Chuck Fritts said.
And County Commissioner's gave Sheriff Paul White the thumbs up to hire six more deputies immediately, but said no to the other eight he requested.
"We want to help the sheriff any way we can. That's why we gave the approval to go ahead and hire the additional six deputies now instead of waiting until June of next year," Fritts said.
The problem on the road leads back to the Anderson County Detention facility. The county's hired more law enforcement. They just end up here because of jail expansions. That's to address overcrowding problems.
"Anderson County just did a renovation to the facility and we got a section of it that's not opened yet," Johnson said.
Soon it will house 22 minimum security inmates.
"That will take 15 people to staff on a 24 hour a day basis," Johnson said.
People who won't end up on the road.
"We're going to be forced to do this because you have a state inspector coming in there and saying you're overcrowded, do it, or you'll lose your license," Fritts said.
Bunch says that means he'll stay in high gear.
"We'll just continue what we've been doing," Bunch said.
To keep you safe.
The cost of the eight additional officers would've been $235,000 dollars. There's still three more phases planned to expand the jail. Commissioner Fritts says that's because even with the new 3 million dollar section, the jail will still be overcrowded. The jail's also short-staffed, but Captain Johnson says those positions should be filled in the next few months. Fritts says the commissioners will continue working with the Sheriff to add more deputies.