CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — Workplaces around the country continue to struggle with not having enough employees, including those tasked with protecting the public.

The Chatham County Police Department continues to face an officer shortage, currently down 37 officers — about a 23% vacancy.

The issue isn’t new to the police department. This time last year, Chief Jeff Hadley told News 3 the department was short 25 officers due to a number of reasons from pay to family issues.

Hadley said the effect is felt hard across the department — from having to shift workloads to facing a lag time in investigations.

“You feel it in a variety of ways,” Hadley said. “When someone gets sick, you hurt. People can’t take vacation because we can’t allow them to take off because we need to have a minimal amount of officers on the street to respond to calls for service.”

While the county is seeing a decrease in violent crime, other crimes like shoplifting and gun thefts are rising. On top of that, the extensive search for missing toddler Quinton Simon is stretching the department’s resources even further, with up to 100 officers and agents searching a landfill.

But Hadley is confident his officers are still effectively responding to calls.

“We’re staffing our beats, we have adequate coverage,” he said. “We really try to draw from many areas of the department so not anyone beat or any one division was adversely affected exponentially because of the Quinton Simon case.”

To help with the ongoing shortage, Hadley asked Chatham County Commission to decrease pension vesting from 10 years to five years, which he believes will help with recruitment and retention.

“Those are some guessing game in terms of whether or not a five-year vesting will attract folks, but we’ve got to be on an even playing field with our competitors,” Hadley said. “I mean, we’re all fishing from the same pond. The pond is very shallow, and we’ve all got to have the same lure.

“It’s an employee’s market right now, it’s not an employer’s market,” Hadley continued. “So, we have to be competitive in all aspects of our compensation package. Not only starting pay, pension, benefits, healthcare, bonuses, things of that nature.”

Despite the department’s shortage, Chief Hadley said they are dedicated to bring the search for Quinton Simon to a close and get justice for the toddler. But he is asking the public to stay patient as investigators continue to search the landfill.