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Charlotte County deputies working to staff new Babcock Ranch station

CCSO needs 35 to 40 deputies to fully staff the new district building
Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 16:54:46-05

BABCOCK RANCH, Fla. — The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office is building a new station in Babcock Ranch as the area grows rapidly. However, the challenge ahead is staffing it.

Sheriff Bill Prummell says Babcock Ranch is expected to grow up to 50,000 people over the next few years. Already, they've seen the ripple effects from the people moving in now.

"The calls for service have gone up," Prummel said. "The traffic is just crazy out there right now."

The district commander only has one deputy assigned in the area. Prummell says if that deputy has to take someone to jail, another deputy has to cover the area for the time being.

Prummell says the single deputy is not enough.

"Right now this district is the closet response to Babcock," he said.

The headquarters is near the Punta Gorda Airport, which is about a 30 minute drive to Babcock Ranch. In an industry where seconds matter, Prummell says they need a presence in the area.

"When somebody picks up that phone and calls for help, we’ve got to make sure there’s somebody there who can respond to it," the sheriff said.

One of many reasons why they're building the new district, but CCSO needs 35 to 40 deputies to staff it.

"Since 2020, it’s been very difficult to staff all enforcement and corrections," Prummell said. "Because of all this that has been going on, between COVID, between the incident that occurred with George Floyd, people aren’t rushing into this profession."

To recruit, Prummell says they have been advertising in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois. They have had some luck, but says many applicants coming in cannot pass the background check.

Prummell is looking to fill 51 law enforcement positions, 19 in the jail and five dispatchers. These numbers do not include what they need for the new district.

According to the Florida Sheriffs Association, in 2022, sheriff's offices reported an average vacancy rate of 7% for sworn deputies.

CCSO is recruiting in other areas, such as middle and high schools.

"We’re trying to attract them into our explorer program," Prummell said. "This is the first time we’ve gone in there and we’ve really, really pushed."

By the time a student is old enough to apply, Prummell hopes they will have an interest in law enforcement following the program. CCSO has sponsored some cadets and sent them to the police academy.

"Although it’s [school recruitment] not helping me right now, it will build for the future," he said.

But without new staff for the new district, Prummell says they may have to make some tough decisions.

"We may have to shuffle some people around, we may have to — worst-case scenario I may have to take some of my specialty units that I rely on for other things and move them there," he explained.

The district is expected to open by January 2025, so there's still time to fill those positions.

To learn more about career opportunities at the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, click here.