NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - In response to threats against law enforcement nationwide, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has initiated a policy requiring all deputies to respond to 911 calls in pairs. The rule has been in place for the past two weeks, following the deadly shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
"We don't stop providing deputy sheriffs no matter what we might fear or might feel. We're still sending the deputies, so if you call, you get a deputy, but now, you get two deputies," explained Captain James Steffens.
Steffens said the procedure has left many deputies and the families of deputies feeling safer during patrol shifts, however, by doubling up on calls, deputies are unable to respond as quickly to calls deemed "low priority."
"We did have some calls stacking up two to three hours, which we don't like," said Steffens, "but we have to prioritize the calls. If we have an active situation, where we have a bad car crash or something in progress of a criminal nature, we will have to prioritize and send deputies there."
Steffens said civil complaints, such as code enforcement issue, are considered low priority and could take hours for two available deputies to arrive.
The change in response is also affecting local churches and neighborhood organizations who hire off duty deputies to patrol. Organizations must now hire two deputies, doubling the cost.
According to the Pasco Sheriff's Office, some organizations have cancelled or postponed the use of additional safety units, while others have adjusted by decreasing the number of hours they hire deputies to patrol their area.
The Sheriff's Office said the community has been overall supported of the double response plan for the security of deputies.
PCSO is evaluating the risk factor against law enforcement daily. They plan to return to single officer response once they feel it is safe.