The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is in the process of hiring back 10 sworn police officers who previously served with the agency and were part of the reduction in force in 2011.
Forty-eight officers were laid off in a reduction in force, in addition to cuts made to civilian ranks, last year. This year, a total of 74 police positions were eliminated from the employment cap for the Sheriff's Office.
However, these 10 positions have been created by vacancies that occur as a part of normal attrition, such as retirement and resignation, according to the Sheriff's Office.
"Normally there must be 20 police vacancies in order for a class to commence at the academy to produce economies of scale," a JSO news release reads. "Because these individuals require no training for certification and have already received JSO-specific training, the cost to rehire is strictly for routine medical exams, already provided for in the budget."
Daniel Hill was one of the police officers laid off last year. Hill was offered his job back, but said he is now with the military and can't come back to Jacksonville.
"They had laid off Community Service Officers and other Officers," said Hill. "Then to get the call and they're trying to fill these other slots, and to get the call I was actually pretty excited," said Hill.
Hill told Channel 4 Tuesday night that he hopes for another opening down the road when he's finished his year-long commitment to the military.
"I have maintained all along that we would take any opportunity to reach out to those officers and bring them back if we could do so without impacting our budget, and these vacancies provided just that opportunity," said Sheriff John Rutherford. "We have to fill vacancies for the positions we do have funding for; I get to bring home officers that I know are expertly trained and highly qualified; and the ultimate benefit, the citizens receive the protection they deserve."
The minimal cost to the city or the agency to rehire recent employees is another reason the agency reached out to them.
JSO said that's because they are already certified and trained, and would only need refresher courses or to requalify for high-liability positions; would fill existing vacancies in the sworn ranks, which occur naturally; and, upon being rehired, would not change the reduced manpower level of the Sheriff's Office as defined by the budget.
But not every former officer has been anxious to return. Channel 4 spoke with Nelson Cuba, head of the Police Union. Cuba said there's understandable apprehension to come back to a department that seems to have to undergo major cuts each year when the city seems to hit an annual budget crisis.
"They went through about 26 before they were able to get 10," said Cuba. "No, I'm not surprised at all... there's new residency requirements and the budget being what it is," said Cuba.
Cuba said it's very important for the Sheriff to fill these spots before the City Council possibly looks at another round of cuts next year.
"The concern would be if you left these vacancies as you move forward over the next budget year... Would the council and mayor's office think if you left the vacancy then you don't need those officers?" said Cuba.
Due to impending retirements, the Sheriff's Office said it anticipates reaching out to the remainder of the police officers involved in the 2011 cuts to fill future vacancies.