Kootenai County sheriff says staff vacancies hurt responses

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — The sheriff of Kootenai County, Idaho, said the deadly shooting Monday night near Hauser Lake was the latest example of increased violent crime and the shortage of deputies at the sheriff’s office to respond.

Sheriff Robert Norris said Wednesday that Dennis Rogers, 77, was found dead and John S. Hazell Jr., 55, was injured. The Spokesman-Review reported that Adam J. Bennett, a 44-year-old transient, was taken into custody without incident after he allegedly fled the scene but has not been charged in the case.

Norris said it was very difficult to find sheriff’s office personnel to respond to the crime scene because of staffing shortages.

He said a 30% vacancy in the jail staff and 30% vacancy in the dispatch center require deputies to fill those positions instead of patrolling the streets.

He said there are six patrol deputy vacancies with five deputies in training, 21 jail deputy vacancies and 12 in training, and nine dispatcher vacancies with three in training.

Norris said raising deputies’ salaries would help fill the sheriff’s office vacancies, and that Kootenai County commissioners need to add more deputy positions to the budget as well. He said some deputies are leaving to higher-paying professions, and applicants say the county’s housing prices are too high.