Clay County Sheriff's Office grappling with slower response times

Sheriff's spokesperson says staffing shortage is to blame for delayed response

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Getting to an emergency call now takes a Clay County deputy an average of two minutes longer than it would have taken three years ago.

The average response time for a priority call this year is 11 minutes and 28 seconds, compared to 9 minutes and 39 seconds in 2016, according to data released by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Christopher Padgett said the delayed response time has everything to do with a staffing shortage. In fact, he said, the agency is currently 47 deputies behind the state average.

Sheriff Darryl Daniels plans to ask the county commission for a $6 million budget increase, but in the meantime, deputies are trying to cut down on the time they spend on calls, Padgett said.

The slower average response time worries residents like Emily Kennictt, who knows that every second counts when you’re in the middle of a real emergency.

“If they say they need more officers, clearly it’s an issue and they need to bring in more officers,” Kennictt said. “I know if I was in a situation, I would want them to get there as soon as possible.”

Added resident Melissa Boyd: “They need to be responding to calls as quickly as possible to keep people safe.”

Padgett said the agency has a five-year plan that Sheriff Daniels will present to the county commission for approval at the end of the fiscal year. It remains to be seen if the board will sign off on that plan.

“The first priority of government is to make people safe,” said Commissioner Diane Hutchings. “Our law enforcement person is Daniels, and I know he’s putting together a budget as we speak.”

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