Callaway County sheriff speaks out about lack of deputies
FULTON - Clay Chism's first year as Callaway County Sheriff can best be characterized by a lack of deputies at his disposal.
"When we are full staff, it's almost an oddity these days," said Chism, a Callaway native.
The situation in Callaway is not unique to the county. Across mid-Missouri, sheriffs' departments are short staffed. Chism said there are two reasons this is happening- the job itself and the money associated with it.
"It's a very stressful line of work, and this isn't a job for everyone. You have to work to be a community servant," Chism said. "You don't get into this job to get rich; however, some people get into this job thinking they're going to make a great amount of money and when they're not, they leave."
Chism said smaller counties can't pay deputies as high of wages as some of the larger nearby counties.
"My competition is next door in both Boone and Cole Counties, and it's really difficult to hire and retain here when our starting salary is substantially lower."
In Callaway County, the money for law enforcement comes from the general revenue. Chism said this makes it harder to ask for more funding from the county.
"We are funding law enforcement 100 percent out of general revenue. As sheriff, I'm fighting for the same dime that every other county department is fighting for," he said.
Gary Jungermann, Callaway County Commissioner, said he agrees that not having a separate budget for law enforcement can create more issues.
"Road deputies don't make much money. Here in Callaway, our general revenue stream doesn't grow that much, but our law enforcement center still comes out of general revenue. That makes it hard. Right at half of your general revenue budget is at the law enforcement center," said Jungermann, also a Callaway native.
However, Jungermann and Chism are working together in tandem to help increase starting salaries for deputies. Jungermann is confident this will happen in the 2018 budget.
"With the current 2018 budget, we are going to make another adjustment to starting pay and up it to $35,000. That's significant for us, and it's significant period. But we know if we can't keep good, quality people here, we're letting down the citizens of this county," he said.
Yet even with the struggle to fill positions, Chism said he can't lower his standards.
"I don't believe law enforcement should have to lower our standards to fill positions. That makes my stomach hurt thinking that we would go out and find a lower quality individual to fill a spot," he said.