Deputy dads

Fourteen Jefferson County sheriff's deputies pose with their newborn babies at the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge in Jefferson County.

Call it a sheriff’s office baby boom — 17 Jefferson County law enforcement officers have become fathers this year. Officials said that might be a record for the department, which employs 175 sworn officers.

“It’s really special,” Capt. Andy Sides said of the influx of infants.

Sides’ second child was born six months ago.

“Holy cow,” he said.

On Monday, 14 of the 17 new fathers, their wives and their babies gathered at Sandy Creek Covered Bridge in Jefferson County for a photo. Most of the infants, gurgling or whining or wide-eyed and watchful in their parents’ arms, were also in uniform — matching white T-shirts with deputy badges printed on them and brown pants and accessories.

“It’s important that we support our families,” Sheriff Dave Marshak said. “For us, this is good.”

Why so many newborns this year? It’s likely just chance, but a joke has been going around the department that the little ones are “Prop P babies.”

Proposition P, a property tax increase that county voters passed in April 2018, supplied more resources, including raises, for the sheriff’s office. Prior to the proposition’s passing, the starting salary for a deputy was $37,902. Now, that entry-level salary has jumped to $50,300.

“I think it’s more than a coincidence,” said Sgt. Matt Moore. His little one, Luca, was born this year. “It certainly gives you a lot more flexibility in starting a family if you’ve got more income. Kids aren’t getting any cheaper these days.”

Before the vote, Marshak had warned of a possible “mass exodus” of law enforcement officers if the measure didn’t pass. Other area police departments were offering more competitive salaries. Now, he said, recruiting is going well with new recruits recently coming from St. Louis, Manchester and Ballwin.

On the other hand, Marshak said, more deputies are going on leave to spend time with their new babies.

Deputy A.J. Kausler and his wife Baileigh Kausler just had their first child, Lucy, four months ago. The couple had been worried about affording day care and other expenses on the combined salaries of a deputy and a special education teacher.

“I don’t know how we would have afforded this without (Proposition P),” Baileigh Kausler said. “I would not have been able to take 12 weeks off without Prop P either.”

The average age of the deputies welcoming new family members this year is 31.8 years old, spokesman Grant Bissell said. The two newest babies are just 10 days old.

“Oh my goodness!” Andy Sides cooed at his 6-month-old son. Fatherhood suits him, he said.

“I love it, with both of our boys and my wife,” Sides said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It makes your bad days good when you come home.”

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

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