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Not enough deputies? Why the Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Office can't hire more amid staffing concerns

Posted at 7:38 PM, Nov 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-28 20:38:05-05
  • According to data from Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Office, the county is far below others of similar size when it comes to the number of sheriff's deputies.
  • Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt said this can pose a safety problem.
  • Video shows depth on the number of deputies, and what people who live in Fond du Lac think about the issue.

The Fond du Lac Sheriff’s Office said it needs more sheriff’s deputies to properly patrol all 764 square miles of the county.
Many law enforcement agencies are struggling with staffing, but the Fond du Lac Sheriff’s Office said their deputy ratios are far below state averages.

According to information provided by the sheriff’s office, the office has 59 sworn law enforcement deputies, which includes everyone from patrol to the sheriff himself, and includes deputies assigned to the undercover drug unit, school resource deputies, and more.

They currently maintain a ratio of about 1.38 deputies per 1,000 county residents, which the sheriff said is far below the ratios of other counties of similar size.

For example, Manitowoc County has a 1.95 deputy-to-resident ratio, Jefferson County has a 2.02 deputy-to-resident ratio and Washington County as a 1.65 deputy-to-resident ratio, to just name a few.

Nationally,county sheriff’s offices average about 2.8 deputies per 1,000 residents.

The sheriff says having enough deputies on patrol is imperative to keeping people safe.

“You've got an interstate running through the middle of our county that flows between major metro areas to the south, and a pretty significant population in the Fox Valley to the north,” Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt said. “There's a lot that comes through Fond du Lac, like we're in the middle of it all”

Waldschmidt said this staffing issue is coming at a time when the county is experiencing a record number of overdose deaths and a record number of motor vehicle deaths compared to the past 10 years, and

So, why not just hire more deputies?

Waldschmidt said it isn’t that simple.

He said the sheriff’s office operates on a staffing system in which the minimum staffing on all patrol shifts consists of four deputies and one supervisor. This staffing system has been in place for almost 30 years, according to the sheriff.

“A lot has changed in 30 years,” Waldschmidt said. “And a lot of the complexity of a lot of the calls are much more significant today. The violence that we encounter is a lot more significant.”

Currently, Waldschmidt said all positions are filled, so they don’t have room to hire more under the current county guidelines.

I spoke to some of my neighbors here in Fond du Lac County, and they told me they’re concerned about having fewer deputies than other similar-sized counties.

“It’s not fair. We should have just as many,” Fond du Lac resident Phoenix Doyle said,

With recent high speed chases on I-41 making headlines, neighbors like Jodi Slager, who has lived in Fond du Lac for almost 30 years, say they’re nervous.

“[The] high speed chases… if we put an end to it, and we have more sheriffs and police out, I feel that that would be a lot better,” Slader said. “I think if we get ahead of things, it's not as bad.”

Waldschmidt said one deputy costs the county about $100,000 a year annually in salary, benefits and training.

He hopes to hire 19 deputies more using some of the $1.2 million in shared revenue Fond du Lac is receiving from the state legislature that’s been earmarked for public safety, as well as funds from opioid settlements.

“It's the perfect opportunity to start expanding our workforce without having to raise local taxes because we're getting that injection of money from the state,” Waldschmidt said.

Now, it’s up to the county, which will consider the proposal.