BURIEN, Wash. - Imagine training extensively for a dream job only to find out you won't have it for very long.
Ever since he was a little boy, Noland Bender dreamed of becoming a cop. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
Finally, at the age of 45, the Monroe man got his chance. After an exhaustive year and a half testing process, the King County Sheriff's Department hired Bender last Spring. The father of three sons shut down the construction business he owned, to enter a life of public service.
"I've got the heart of a cop," says Bender.
Today, he's finishing up the final couple of weeks of his training at the Law Enforcement Academy in Burien. Bender's learning how to drive safely and fast, he's learning how to disarm bad guys. But, before he could officially pin on his badge at his graduation ceremony, he got some bad news.
As of January first, he's preparing to be laid off.
Bender and seven other new King County Sheriff's recruits got the news from Sheriff Sue Rahr a few days ago. According to department spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart, one of the recruits even moved his family here from California to take the job, the job he may not have as of January.
"I finally, after two years, got the go ahead to go through the academy. Then, make it through the academy and get on with the department.... to now have to think: Where am I going now?" said Bender.
Urquhart says the lay-offs are part of the overall budgetary dilemma impacting King County's entire criminal justice system, from the prosecutor's office to the courts.
In recruit Bender's case, he will ultimately graduate from the academy as a fully commissioned officer. He's hopeful that will entice a different department to hire him. Since Bender will already be fully trained, his next department will save those thousands of dollars in police training costs.
"I'm going to have the academy under my belt. It is going to help me? I'm optimistic. I hope it does. I'm a lot more experienced now.... hopefully I'll find a place to call home," said Bender.
The King County Executive's proposed 2011 budget will include more than seven million dollars in funding cuts to the King County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office says the cuts would mean layoffs of 28 deputies and two civilians who protect public safety in unincorporated areas. Eight sergeants and four command staff members would be demoted and transferred back to patrol. 40 detectives would be reassigned, most to driving a patrol car.
Urquhart says cuts this deep have never impacted the Sheriff's Office before.