Creative recruiting, incentives boost DougCo Sheriff’s Office staffing

Heather Willard

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DougCo Sheriff Tony Spurlock speaks to cadets of Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Facility Academy Class #15.Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / July 21, 2022

(Douglas County, Colo.) The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has five open positions to fill, less than a year after leadership reported 25 vacancies.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said new retention incentives, raises and creative recruiting efforts, as well as the more dedicated recruiters, helped fill the agency’s ranks. The Sheriff’s Office budgets for 375 sworn deputies, and currently 370 positions are staffed. That number does not include civilian Sheriff’s Office employees.

Two more deputies were assigned to focus on hiring, plus complete the regular background check services they typically handle.

The deputies represent DougCo at hiring events, like law enforcement conferences, or community organizations, such as colleges and universities. Currently, a handful of cadets are in training to join the department.

“We’ve done some new things to retain staff we have but we made an adjustment to our recruiting and it’s had a big impact,” Spurlock said. “One of the tools is really reaching out to particular special events where there’s a lot of different people who might be interested in a law enforcement job.”

Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. saw a dip as anti-police rhetoric and sentiment grew more prevalent — fueled by social discussions like the highly-scrutinized murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the death of Elijah McClain in Aurora. The issue also hurts state agencies, with the Colorado State Patrol seeking more than 80 recruits this year.

Spurlock said his agency was affected by the shift away from law enforcement, but pivoted to leveraging other aspects of the job to recruit experienced and new officers in the past eight months.

Arguably, the most significant is the sheriff’s office increased pay. DCSO officers received two pay raises in the past year, boosting the department’s pay rate higher than some neighboring agencies. Douglas County deputies now start with an annual salary of $72,334, compared Denver deputies starting pay of $62,458.

The county also gave the office approval to offer an additional 3% retirement fund match to maintain tenure in the department.

Spurlock also noted the long-standing and overwhelmingly positive sentiment about law enforcement from DougCo residents. He said annual surveys show an average of 80 to 90% of residents give the sheriff’s office positive ratings.

“The big issue here is we are doing our very best to be as competitive as we can in the market to get quality officers,” Spurlock said.

He also pointed to the agency’s significant training program, which trains deputies to levels exceeding state and federal requirements. Spurlock said training helps protect his deputies from possible lawsuits and community complaints.

“The more you train your officers, the more efficient and effective they will be in serving the community,” Spurlock said, “which reduces complaints for officers who are trained properly and reduces lawsuits.”

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

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