From Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson

Central Florida is booming.

Job growth in our region is outperforming all other communities in the nation. Tourism, always the lifeblood of Central Florida, has not disappointed, with 42- million passengers going through Orlando International Airport annually, Central Florida is the number one meeting destination in the nation.

Orange County is also experiencing population growth, which has risen 15% in the last five years alone.

So with all of these positive indicators, why is the Orange County Sheriff’s Office struggling to retain its deputies?

The OCSO has 1.87 officers per 1,000 citizens, which is well below the Florida agency average of 2.5 officers per 1,000. And unfortunately, the hiring trend is going in the wrong direction. Data shows that the number of officers working for the department is decreasing. There were 638 deputies hired since 2011, but 661 have left the agency. That’s a net-negative of 23 officers at a time when most agencies are increasing their forces.

The deputies of the OCSO put their lives on the line every day, but they need help. The OCSO is one of the best-operated divisions in the state, so many are asking what the problem is and why are they having trouble keeping staff?

The recruitment challenges that the OCSO faces is primarily non-competitive pay, and competition locally, regionally, and nationally against other departments. The Orlando Police Department works close within the lines of OCSC’s protection district, which causes loss of staff between the two agencies.

The vision of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is to build a trust with the community and reduce crime, but the only way to accomplish these objectives is to increase the number of officers. OCSO deputies have a dangerous and difficult job, and it’s hard to go through the rigorous and time-consuming training that it takes to become a deputy in Orange County. It’s time to give back to these men and women that keep us safe every day. The OCSO budget request will not go unrecognized by the Board of County Commissioners.

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