The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office wants to add three new patrol deputies and one detective to its staff in 2021. Sheriff John Snaza and his command staff presented their case to Thurston County Commissioners at a budget meeting yesterday.
The new detective’s job would be to investigate sex crimes, Snaza said during the meeting. The county’s sex crime caseload has grown significantly over the past few years, he said, though it leveled off in 2020.
In 2017, the department investigated 108 sex offense cases, according to Undersheriff Tim Braniff. There were 144 cases in 2018 and 202 cases last year. The caseload has dropped this year, mostly because the schools are not holding in-person classes, Braniff said. It is school advocates who often notice signs of sexual abuse in students and alert the sheriff’s office.
“We hope we don’t have a large influx once schools start to open back up again,” Braniff said.
Snaza said he hopes that adding a new detective to his staff will cut down the response time to sex crimes.
The additional detective position will cost $235,000, which includes salary, training, equipment, and a vehicle.
Additionally, Snaza said, his office is seeking to add three full-time patrol deputies to its staff next year, at a cost of $718,000 in total. At present, his office has 69 patrol deputies.
The corrections division of the sheriff’s office is also seeking additional staffing for next year. Snaza cited a staffing study conducted at the Thurston County jail in 2018. That study recommended 12 additional full-time positions be created to properly staff the facility. The board of county commissioners at the time allocated funding for seven new hires. Now, Snaza said they would like to have the other five — four corrections deputies and one legal assistant — for a total cost of $558,000.
A new off-site courtroom is expected to be in use by Thurston County courts sometime in November, and Snaza requested three new corrections deputies to staff the building.
“I have encouraged the sheriff to go ahead and hire these now. We’ll pay with COVID funds as long as we can,” said Assistant County Manager Robin Campbell.
Thurston County Commissioners will continue their budget deliberations through the end of the year.