HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is facing a dilemma: a shortage of deputies. The agency is in need of more than 300 deputies, many of which would patrol the streets.
“Finding people has become a problem,” sheriff’s spokesman Larry McKinnon tells 8 On Your Side.
The root of the problem is somewhat surprising. 8 On Your Side learned the agency has strict guidelines when hiring new deputies. Candidates must have squeaky clean backgrounds with no criminal records. Also, applicants who have used tobacco products within the last six months are disqualified. Overall, the department looks for stellar candidates.
“We have to filter through ten tons of dirt to get one gold nugget,” McKinnon said.
News Channel 8 spoke to taxpayers who welcomed the stringent guidelines.
“I think they should have strict guidelines with all the police brutality and the issues we’re having with law enforcement right now,” said Deana Cunningham.
That sentiment is another reason why there is a shortage. The sour perception of police in America has steered some qualified candidates toward other, less hostile businesses.
“It’s very difficult to find people who want to get into this profession anymore,” McKinnon said.
The Sheriff’s Office has a long way to go to get up to speed. It needs to hire 200 deputies for the patrol division and 130 to work in county jails.
McKinnon stressed that public safety, despite the shortage, is not an issue.