We are all familiar with the men and women who wear the green of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), but it isn’t widely known that about half the employees of the Sheriff’s Office don’t put on that uniform when they go to work every day.
These are the men and women who are employed in support positions. The jobs, both full and part-time, range from forensics experts and 911 dispatchers to nurses, mechanics, and animal control officers. And the good news, in these times of job uncertainty, is that the Sheriff’s Office is always hiring.
Excellent benefits, including vacation and sick pay; health and life insurance; and a pension upon retirement, along with competitive salaries and job security are among the perks. Another important benefit, in light of the high costs of post-secondary education, is once an employee completes a one-year probationary period, they’re eligible for tuition reimbursement if they want to continue their education.
Some positions require just a high school diploma or a GED, while others require a college degree, completion of special courses, or graduation from a police academy, along with passing a state exam.
However, the HCSO is selective in whom they hire and conducts extensive background checks before an applicant is hired. Also, all prospective employees have to pass a Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA), which is similar to a lie-detector test.
“Our hiring process is lengthier than in the private sector because we want to make sure that we get the right person the first time around,” comments Public Information Officer Michael Terry.
“With the extensive training many positions require, a wrong hire can become costly,” he added.
According to Human Resources (HR) Coordinator Rob McKinney, the HCSO utilizes several methods to find the right people to fill their job openings.
“We use online job search sites like ‘Indeed’ and we also work with Spherion, a local temp agency, and CareerSource. We might also advertise in a professional periodical depending on the position.”
The agency also participates in job fairs and goes to police academies to recruit. The HCSO even advertises on Facebook and Instagram in the North and Midwest to attract people who want to move to sunny Florida.
Captain John Cameron, Special Operations Division Commander, works closely with the HR staff. His unit is in charge of everything that does not include patrol deputies, criminal investigations, and detention facilities. That’s a broad swath that includes, among others, School Resource Officers; the K-9 Unit; the SWAT team; and the Traffic Unit.
“Our big thing is trying to recruit and retain qualified applicants. We work with HR to screen backgrounds and make sure they’re a good fit for the agency. One of our biggest challenges is hiring good, qualified candidates who can pass our background check because the Sheriff said he will not lower standards just to fill vacancies,” states Cameron.
Convicted felons need not apply; however, a misdemeanor in your past does not necessarily disqualify an applicant. It depends on the circumstances. For example, a young adult who commits a misdemeanor, but has completed his sentence and has had a clean record for a number of years could be considered for a position. However, you must divulge any offense, even a traffic citation, when you fill out the application. Any omission or lie will automatically disqualify a candidate if it’s discovered during the background check or during the Voice Stress Analysis.
One important way the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office finds excellent job candidates is through the PST (Public Service Technician) Program, which is composed mostly of younger people. These are part-time paid employees.
“They do what a deputy does, but have no arrest powers and don’t investigate crimes where suspects are present. They’ll handle thefts, minor car accidents, and direct traffic. It’s a good barometer for both them and the agency because the individual can see what the work is like and the Sheriff’s Office gets to see their work performance,” Captain Cameron remarks.
“If it looks like it’s going to work out, we’ll sponsor them [pay their tuition] for the police academy and they’ll be able to work part-time while they’re going to school. If they perform, make it through the police academy and pass the test, we’ll hire them as full-time deputies. Our retention rate for those we’ve put through that program is about 95%,” Cameron continues.
The HCSO grooms future deputies through its Explorer Post 409 program. This program is offered to students between the ages of 14 to 21. Explorers are trained by certified law enforcement instructors in all areas of police work, including traffic stops and crash investigations, crisis intervention, and crime scene investigations. They are also offered a firearms familiarization and safety class.
The agency has also recently partnered with Nature Coast Technical High School, which has a Criminal Justice track. Deputies speak to their classes and do demonstrations. Seniors can shadow members of the HCSO in some of the different units and get an idea of what the jobs entail.
“The goal is that upon graduating there’s an opportunity for them to be hired; they can go right into a job, college, and a career,” comments Cameron.
Finding, training, and retaining good employees can be a challenge for the Sheriff’s Office. It is especially important because the safety and welfare of the community are at stake. However, the task has its rewards.
Captain Cameron states, “One of the most rewarding things for me is knowing that here, where I live and raise my family, I’m helping keep this community safe by helping recruit and train those deputies to come behind me and continue with the standards we’ve set. A big priority is developing those people who are going to be taking our place.”
The HCSO wants to be sure that its agency is a good representation of all the members of the community and thus diversification is a major priority and a big part of its recruiting goals. To achieve this the Sheriff’s Office has a diverse recruiting team.
After 25 years as a law enforcement officer, HR Coordinator McKinney traded his uniform in for a coat and tie. He finds this role gratifying, as well.
“Being in HR and getting these young people on a career path is very rewarding. Knowing too that as people are brought in to take our place that we’re getting the best candidates and the people of Hernando County are being well-cared for when it comes to law enforcement,” McKinney states.
Currently, there are more than a dozen jobs available ranging from a paralegal and a part-time bailiff to a forensic technician and several deputy positions. Starting pay ranges from approximately $13.50 per hour to about $64,600 annual salary.