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Smith County Pct. 4 Constable's Office among law enforcement agencies facing staff shortages

Even if the office was fully staffed, Smith County Precinct Four deputies would still have a ratio of about one officer per 4,000 people.

SMITH COUNTY, Texas — Smith County Pct. 4 constable deputies are stretched thin.

Six deputies cover 322 square miles, according to Pct. 4 Constable Josh Joplin. That’s an area five times the size of Tyler.

Among those deputies, one works in the early morning, one works late at night and three work during the day.

Two of those three daytime deputies got called away to a wreck in the middle of CBS19's interview with Joplin. 

A two-car crash sent one man away in an ambulance outside the constable's office. 

Everyone involved is expected to be OK, but situations like these remind Joplin how much needs to be done and how few people he has to do it.

“I have the civil side. I have the traffic side. And then we also do criminal investigations as well. So we kind of have our hands and a little bit of everything," Joplin said. 

Across the state and nation, law enforcement faces a similar struggle: not enough staff.

A police executive research forum survey from June 2021 found departments in the US were filling an average 93% of their positions.

Generational differences, funding, negative perceptions of policing, and long hiring processes explain the vacancies, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Joplin is grateful to have other agencies support and to be getting a new deputy next month.

"Without everybody coming together as one unit and working together as one fine tuning machine, it would just fall apart," Joplin said. 

In the mean time, his small crew is ready to stretch a little further to meet the community's needs.  

Smith County is accepting applications for deputies and reserves. If you’re interested you can pick up an application at the Smith County Pct. 4 Constable’s Office.

RELATED: Smith County constable resigns to become East Texas school police chief

RELATED: 7 Texas DPS officers to be investigated in Uvalde shooting response

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