(KMOV.com) -- A new report says the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department is extremely understaffed.
The department has about 100 employees but to get up to the national average it would have to add more than 70 more.
The person most surprised by a report on staffing was the sheriff himself.
“It was as alarming to me and overwhelming to me as it probably would be to anyone,” said Sheriff John Cottle. “We’re 76.4 officers short, expecting 135% increase in population over next 15 years and it was very alarming.”
Lincoln County is in the midst of a population boom and is projected to be one of the fastest growing counties in the state, more than doubling its population between 2000 and 2030.
At times only three deputies patrol a county that is 640 square miles and has a population of 53,000.
While it did get two new vehicles this year, the first since 2007, most of the patrol cars have far more 100,000, some more 200,000.
The study raises questions about whether or not the department can properly service the county.
“We’ll do our best with what we have,” Cottle said. “We have thus far.”
Adding to the problem is the fact smaller towns in the county don’t provide 24-hour police protection. So it falls upon the Sheriff’s Department to plug the gaps.
Calls are prioritized but the report says “It is not uncommon for deputies to respond several hours after the initial call due to its current staffing.”
The sheriff says he’s realistic about adding personnel and says even eight more deputies would be huge for the department.