TAMPA — Despite the poor economy and plenty of job seekers, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office can't seem to fill about 220 vacancies.
The problem has persisted for months, and some are calling it a critical shortage, with detention deputies working on their days off and street deputies patrolling larger areas.
The department — one of the largest rural sheriff agencies in the nation — just can't keep up with attrition, said Lt. Kyle Cockream, who trains deputies.
To try to alleviate the problem, the agency is hosting a recruitment event Saturday at the Falkenberg Road Jail. The focus is on filling 96 detention deputy spots, but officials will talk to people interested in working patrol.
Cockream is hopeful but realistic. Most people who apply aren't accepted, he said.
"And we're not going to lower our standards to get more people," he said.
Only about 50 percent of applicants pass the physical assessment test, Cockream said. Then there's a background test, application and interviews.
Response times for nonemergency calls have increased in eastern Hillsborough County, said Maj. Clyde Eisenberg of District II. He's had to pay deputies overtime to work the peak hours of 2 to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Maj. Ron Hartley of District IV has a different perspective.
"I've been here 36 years, and we've been short 36 years," he said.
The agency employs about 3,600 people, but that number is constantly in flux.
"We're looking for people who want a career, who want to be with us for the long haul," Cockream said.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.