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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Clark County sheriff announces cutback in call response

Atkins cites staffing shortages, takes county council to task

By , Columbian staff reporter

Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins announced Monday that deputies will no longer respond to certain calls for service by the end of the month due to staffing shortages in all branches of the agency.

In a statement, Atkins said his pleas for support from the Clark County Council over rising crime and decreasing staff have gone unanswered and that the strain has become critical.

People calling about minor crimes will now be sent to the online reporting system, Atkins said, or encouraged to call the desk deputy during regular business hours.

“Never in my 40-year law enforcement career, until last year, would I have imagined the Clark County Sheriff’s Office having to take such measures,” Atkins said in the statement. “I have communicated to the county council the urgency of taking immediate action with staffing solutions so that we can adequately protect and safeguard our community.”

In a phone interview, council Chair Karen Bowerman said solutions to the staffing shortage would be a part of collective bargaining with the Clark County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild and that the council only has authority over the agency’s budget. She agreed staffing levels are critical and said she hopes contract negotiations are going well.

When reached for comment Monday evening, the guild said it would release its own statement today.

Deputies will no longer respond to calls for:

  • misdemeanor theft of property less than $750;
  • theft from a vehicle when there’s no suspect information;
  • damage or vandalism of property when there’s no suspect information;
  • minor crimes at schools, such as behavioral problems, property damage and fighting;
  • harassing phone calls that are not life-threatening, except for domestic violence or stalking;
  • scams or identity theft valued less than $5,000;
  • minor assaults;
  • informational reports;
  • lost or found property that does not pose a safety concern, except for found drugs or weapons;
  • trespassing on public lands, unoccupied county lands or state lands or when the property owner doesn’t want to press charges;
  • traffic, parking and neighborhood complaints when there’s no crime;
  • welfare checks when there’s no observed crime or threat to the public.

Atkins said in a July statement about new police reform legislation that the agency was short-staffed, and he struggled to hire new deputies. He said Clark County had the lowest staffing-to-population ratio in the state with 0.65 officers per thousand residents.