Law enforcement agencies across the country say they're dealing with a shortage of recruits. And in Collin County, the sheriff says there's a major staffing shortage at his jail.
Everyone agrees more detention officers need to be hired. The bigger problem is that it seems impossible to hire them. The economy is good, people can get jobs elsewhere, and jobs at the jail can be dangerous.
It's already a stressful work environment but add to that the fatigue of working extra hours to keep the jail staffed fully.
"We're asking people to come in and work 12-hour shifts, sometimes 2 and 3 days in a row repeatedly week after week,” said Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner.
The sheriff manages his 242 detention officers carefully. He needs 33 more officers in the jail, which averages a thousand inmates. Turnover is high, and the hiring process is slow.
"Oh, it's been a problem for well over a year,” he said.
County Judge Keith Self addressed the issue with commissioners Monday night.
Over a two week period, the jail has racked up nearly $72,000 in overtime. But the county cannot get enough people, even veterans, interested in being detention officers.
Applicants for the job must be high school graduates and have no criminal record. Pay starts at $35,000, double the minimum wage, retirement benefits are two-to-one and the department will pay for jailer certification. Still, it seems people would rather work in less dangerous fields.
"You know, the unfortunate incident with the murder of the Dallas police officers last summer, I think that that has an impact on recruiting,” Skinner said.
"Law enforcement has been attacked more in the recent past,” Self said. “And so in that environment, you have to find the right person who is willing to put their lives on the line."
Sheriff Skinner says he just promoted someone who started in the jail to captain. He's trying to get the word out.
“It can be a fantastic career, and it can be very rewarding,” he said. “You do make a difference in people's lives."
The department also needs to hire seven patrol deputies. Applicants must be peace officers.
The sheriff is working with HR to make the hiring process quicker, but even when a jailer gets hired on, it takes six months to be certified...
The jail will be short staffed for at least another six months.