EATON CO, Mich. (WLNS) – Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said he will be forced to cut some patrols if his office isn’t able to hire or retain more deputies. He’s now calling on county commissioners to approve a bonus to help keep his remaining staff.

Reich said his department has been losing deputies to retirement and other mid-Michigan departments with higher wages.

As the pool of new hires dries up, he said drastic changes could be coming to county law enforcement services.

“We got to quit dancing with this issue with wages with the deputies. I am in a critical situation right now where I have to make a decision. Its going to be tough,” Reich said.

Earlier this week, the sheriff requested a $10,000 retention bonus for the next two years for county deputies and corrections officers. Reich said services may soon have to be cut as members retire or leave for other departments.

“[We] might not be able to provide deputies on the road patrol on the out county to patrol the area during the night hours and that’s disturbing to me, “Reich said.

People who live in the county also called for more deputies. One local village leader said their request for more patrols could only be met with voluntary overtime.

“It really concerns me as a citizen that if the force is even further reduced, you know, really residents are going to have to protect themselves,” said Vermontville Village Council trustee Kimberly Kenyon.

Corrections officers would also be included in the sheriff’s bonus plan. With 44 of them and 43 deputies the proposal would cost a total of $2,000,000.

Commissioners seemed to be in favor of the move. They voted to pass the request on to the county’s Ways and Means Committee.

But Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeremy Whittum said the county will need to find a longer term solution to tackle the staffing shortage.

“We as a county need to find, and I’m talking about a millage. We’re going to have to run a millage to support our public safety to support our sheriff’s department,” said Whittum.

If the proposal passes the Ways and Means committee on August 12, it will go to a vote in front of the Eaton County Board of Commissioners on August 17.