John Snaza

Sheriff John Snaza speaks at a press conference in July outside the Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia.

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza recently presented data to the Board of County Commissioners showing the number of sheriff's office deputies in the county is below the state average.

He said that means deputies are handling more cases with fewer resources.

Thurston County currently has a commissioned rate of 0.64 officers for every 1,000 people in the county. That comes out to roughly 92 commissioned officers serving approximately 143,820 people, according to the report, which was presented on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

The state average commission rate is 0.73 per 1,000 people.

According to information from the sheriff’s office, the county is ranked 37 out of 39 counties in the state for staffing.

“I think it’s sad. It’s a sad state of affairs,” said Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards, who served 20 years as the county’s sheriff starting in 1986. “His presentation was of no surprise to me.”

The information provided by Snaza sparked worries from some that as the county continues to see growth in its population, the leading law enforcement jurisdiction for unincorporated parts of the county will begin to see significant lag in its ability to serve in a timely manner.

The sheriff’s office will need to hire an additional 31 more deputies over the next 20 years in order to maintain its current commission rate, Snaza said.

Unincorporated Thurston County’s population is expected to increase by roughly 35 percent, according to the report.

Edwards said the county commissioners have approved the hiring of six deputies since the start of the year, and they’ll likely hire more to keep up with the growing population.

“We have been in this dire situation when I was sheriff. So, it’s nothing new. But I’m probably a little more supportive because of my background,” Edwards said.

According to the report, the Sheriff’s Office responds to about 105 calls a day in Thurston County. Roughly 16 of those calls on average involve domestic violence, collisions or mental health or suicide issues, which often take longer to resolve.


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