Stone County Sheriff Says Officer Shortage Is Critical

Stone County Sheriff Mike Ballard calls it a "life or death situation." He says his department desperately needs more officers to patrol a growing county.

Stone County's population jumped nearly 27 percent since 1990. Right now, he has only 10 full-time deputies, and says he needs at least six more officers. That's why he has applied for a $619,000 matching federal grant to hire the extra deputies.

"We deal with this on a daily basis, officers responding to calls all by themselves," Ballard said. "It's a safety issue, not only for the officers but for the citizens. That's why we need more help."

Sheriff Ballard says he needs to hire six more deputies to answer the increase number of calls and cut down on officer response time.

"If the deputy is on the East side of the county and a violent domestic is going on the West side of the county, response time could be 20 minutes."

"Our county is growing," Deputy Phyllis Olds said. "We've got so many subdivisions and trailer parks going in, it's not like it used to be where one or two people could cover everything."

Covering 362 square miles of the county all by herself can be tough and even dangerous. That's why deputy Olds looks forward to getting some extra help.

"We need two officers at all times, just for medical reasons, for officer safety reasons and for the protection for the citizens of the county," Olds said.

Sheriff Ballard is still waiting to find out if he'll get the grant. If he does get the money, the county must pitch in $184,000 to hire the officers for three years. After that, it will be up to the county to assume the cost of keeping the officers on duty.