Sheriff’s Office asks for raises to help with low staffing

Sheriff’s Office asks for raises to help with low staffing
March 16
05:25 2017



With vacancies reaching critical levels at the Sheriff’s Office, county commissioners will soon vote on giving deputies and detention officers a raise.

The commissioners heard options on raises for sworn officers at the Sheriff’s Office during a briefing last week. In order to stay competitive with an expected raise for city police officers, the starting pay for sheriff’s deputy would increase from $34,807 to $36,250. Starting pay for detention officers would increase from $32,487 to $35,163. Current employees would see a pay raise to compensate for the change. If approved, the raises would be effective April 22.

The measure is an attempt to address critical staffing levels at the Sheriff’s Office. As of last Thursday, the department had 71 vacancies. Factoring in absences due to things like sickness and vacations last year, the detention center had 35 percent of its positions vacant per shift and the sheriff’s patrols were only half staffed.

The department is relying on overtime from current employees to fill in, but Chief Deputy Brad Stanley said it’s “not sustainable.” Stanley said the situation was at a “crisis” at the detention center last year and is now at a “critical stage agency-wide.”

“The situation represents at the detention center an increased risk to staff, inmates and the public,” said Stanley.

There are several options on how the raises will affect existing employees. The one that commissioners voiced support for gives current employees a raise equal to 50 percent of the difference between their current salary and the new market rate created by the starting salary increase. Including fringe benefits, this could cost the county up to $1.10 million annually and eliminates a temporary shift differential.

“We need the best, we need the brightest and we need to pay them,” said County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon.

Other options included a 25 percent increase without shift differential for up to $616,171, a 25 percent increase with shift differential for $1.01 million and 100 percent without the differential for $1.91 million.

Stanley said that with real and perceived misdeeds by officers going viral on social media and negative stereotypes over jail conditions, it’s becoming harder to recruit the dwindling population of qualified candidates. Retention can also be a challenge between the pay and the amount of work required of deputies compared to other, smaller counties.

He said the Sheriff’s Office has made numerous changes to improve working conditions. It’s eased the demands on detention officers by reducing the federal and state inmate population and how many inmates can be out at one time.

he department has also hired a consultant to study the detention center, and a marketing firm to improve its brand and recruitment. It’s revised its hiring practices, removed the physical fitness requirement from detention applicants and extended pre-employment orientation. Unlike the Winston-Salem Police Department, the county has no recruitment staff, so recruiting falls to officers to do in addition to their other duties.

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the item in their next business meeting.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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