Benton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Office prioritizing emergency calls because of staff shortages

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:33 PM CDT
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WARSAW, Mo. (KY3) -The Benton County Sheriff says emergency calls might be the only thing his deputies respond to for some time.

Sheriff Eric Knox says he has eight open road deputy positions. There are a total of 16 road deputy positions.

“Life safety is the first. 911 calls and domestic violence, and assault are things that are top priorities with life and health. Then it goes down from there,” said Sheriff Eric Knox.

“Things that go bump in the night, suspicious vehicles, broken mailboxes, stolen license plates, all that kind of stuff that we normally would respond to, if there’s time, we’ll still respond, but unfortunately, we’re reactive rather than proactive. So they’re oftentimes we won’t be able to make it to those people,” said Sheriff Knox.

Eric Kirby is a Benton County citizen. He says it is concerning to see the sheriff’s office short-staffed.

“With the theft, the drugs, and everything going on around the county, when you have something stolen, they can’t respond. Sometimes you might want to take matters into your own hands. That’s maybe not the right way to do it,” said Kirby.

Especially as Benton County has seen its fair share of tragedies in recent years.

“The guys can’t do their job if they don’t have the resources,” said Kirby.

Sheriff Knox says many of his deputies want to leave law enforcement.

“A lot of the older law enforcement folks have just chosen to retire. Then the younger ones that can’t retire have opted to get completely out of law enforcement and go into the civilian world, so they don’t have to deal with what they have to deal with nowadays,” said Knox.

One thing Sheriff Knox says will help is switching to the same retirement system. Other counties use it, but it costs more.

”I went to the commission yesterday and asked them in an open meeting and formally requested that they take a look at LAGERS, which is one of the better retirement systems for law enforcement,” said Knox.

He says he has had people who want to work, but it came down to the retirement system.

“I’ve had multiple requests from larger city police officers that want to come down and basically semi-retired down here in the country. They have lake homes here. And they’d like to get out of the city life and come down here, and they can’t because they can’t bring their retirement with him,” said Knox.

Kirby says higher wages might help. Currently, starting pay for deputies is $20 per hour.

“Maybe increase the wages a little bit if we need to put something on the ballot to raise taxes? I don’t have all the answers, but we got to start somewhere,” said Kirby.

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