DENVER -- After 16 weeks of training, the Denver Sheriff Department's Class of 2021-1 was officially sworn in Friday afternoon.
"It's a different feel from being a recruit. You feel official now, to be completely honest," deputy sheriff Avyn Vaden said.
Vaden, one of 22 new deputies, joined the department after years of working in an office environment and wanting a more physical job.
"I just sat there one day and I said, 'I'm tired of sitting here. I want to get up and do some physical type of jobs,'" Vaden said. "I don't even know what's to come. I know part of it. I'm super excited, but I know that they prepared us for anything that could possibly happen."
She and her new coworkers are joining at a time when the department is facing a grave staffing shortage. The department, before Friday's swear-in, was 210 deputies short of its authorized strength.
In a letter to city and county leaders, the president of the sheriff department's union, Mike Jackson, details the dire conditions, noting the "overtime situation that is untenable" and "unmeasurably low" morale that's causing high turnover.
Jackson is calling on council members to work quickly "before some terrible event befalls us."
"It is a strong statement," Sheriff Diggins said. "We take strategic measures to make sure that we're staffing the facilities as best as we can, that we're training our staff the best that they can be trained. And we're going to make sure that we continue to do that every single day."
He says he is in talks with the union, Denver Sheriff FOP Lodge #27, and council members to find a solution soon. But convincing people to join the ranks isn't easy, and it may require new efforts from within.
"We need everybody that we can get to make a change, to turn the department around, [and] add to the department," Vaden said.
The Denver Sheriff Department has an authorized strength of 874 deputies and currently has 188 vacancies.