Around the nation, law enforcement agencies are short-staffed. The problem started before the pandemic, but has worsened since then.

In Pima County, the sheriff’s department has employees working long hours, because, as Sheriff Chris Nanos said, they can’t not show up when someone calls 911.

Sheriff Nanos said PCSD paid nearly $9 million in overtime alone in 2022. That’s around $7-8 million more than the county budgeted for.

But Nanos said he thinks the department is turning a corner, with more people applying, testing, and joining the academy.

Ideally, the sheriff said he’d like to see his staff numbers rise back to around 1,500 like it was in 2016. He said that would help his staff who have little choice but to rack up overtime.

“Unfortunately, sometimes those work days are longer than they ever anticipated, because there is short staffing,” Nanos said. “My corrections officers are no different. They go to work, and sometimes they don’t know exactly when they are coming home because over time is critical.”

It’s the same situation for everyone at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, from deputies, to correction officers, to civilian workers.

One way departments around the country are trying to solve under-staffing, is by offering higher pay and benefits to officers from other states, who are already trained.

But Sheriff Nanos said he doesn’t want that, and that PCSD doesn’t offer higher paychecks to recruit from other cities, because he believes there is value in recruiting people who have ties to the community.