© 2023 Spokane Public Radio.
An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane County Sheriff's Office to offer $25,000 hiring bonuses

Rebecca White/SPR
Spokane County Commissioners unanimously voted to authorize higher signing bonuses for sheriff deputies.

Spokane County Commissioners unanimously approved sign-on bonuses Tuesday of up to $25,000 for new hires who have experience from other departments, and up to $10,000 for entry-level deputies.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told county commissioners last week that deputies are burned out from excessive overtime and that many are reaching retirement age. He says he needs to recruit 35 people this year, and 15 in 2023.

“Without getting to 35, we cannot maintain our service levels, that’s how bad this is,” he said.

Knezovich’s past recruitment efforts have drawn scrutiny and criticism, such as advertising in recruitment materials that Spokane County doesn’t have a vaccine mandate, and spending $12,500 to run a recruitment ad on a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square.

In a presentation in February, the sheriff said his department received more 758 applications last year, but rejected a significant portion for not meeting qualifications, not turning in paperwork, and for failing background checks and psychological screenings.

The sheriff argues the sign-on bonuses are a way to attract stronger candidates, compete with other law enforcement agencies, and address rising housing costs.

A spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Spokane County Commissioners previously authorized $5,000 bonuses for entry-level deputies and $15,000 for lateral hires. The Spokane Police Department confirmed that's what their department is currently offering.

Spokane Police’s base pay for an officer is slightly higher than that of a sheriff’s deputy, according to recruitment materials for both departments.

Gary Petrovich, the county’s chief budget officer, says there is discussion at the county about retention bonuses for current deputies to keep them on the job.

The recruitment bonuses are set to expire in summer of 2023.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.