DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Deputies in Durham County have been working mandatory shifts in the Durham County Detention Facility as the county has been dealing with a growing shortage of detention officers.

Now, Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said deputies will have to take a course to become “dual certified” so they can continue working in the jail.

This comes as the number of vacancies in the Durham County Detention Facility has doubled — with 87 vacancies as of June 2022. That’s double the 44 vacancies the jail had in June 2021.

“It’s very serious, as is our law-enforcement shortage,” Birkhead said during an interview on Friday.

Birkhead said he never thought he would see this many detention officer vacancies.

“I don’t think anyone you would speak to today would say we forecasted this three years ago, four years ago or 10 years ago. Absolutely not,” he said.

Birkhead said as detention officers retire, the sheriff’s office is challenged with finding people who want to work in the profession.

“I think law enforcement has taken a hit, you’ve heard me say this before, over the past two or three years, it’s not as attractive as it has been,” Birkhead said. “That’s the national climate.”

Since last year, Birkhead said deputies have worked mandatory overtime shifts at the jail to help make up for the shortage.

But since the shortage has gotten worse in the last year, Birkhead said deputies will now be required to get dual certified to serve as both detention officers and law enforcement officers.

“That allows me to sort of mix-and-match, and move folks around as the need arises,” Birkhead said.

Birkhead said deputies will take a two-week course to get dual certified and that will start sometime this fall.

He said the good news is they have seen an increase in detention officer applicants recently.

This past week, the sheriff’s office started their Basic Detention Officer Academy at Durham Tech with 10 detention officer cadets.

Also, the Durham County Commissioners recently approved a salary increase for detention officers in Durham as they are now making $44,575, which Birkhead said is roughly a $5,000 salary increase.

“I am hopeful that the increase in salaries, as well as the great innovative programs and strategies that we have at the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, is going to attract more qualified applicants and certainly be able to retain them,” Birkhead said. “I do think we’ll turn this around in the next three years.”

CBS 17 reached out to other counties and found that there are 101 detention officer vacancies in Cumberland County, out of 188 positions.

This means 53 percent of their positions are vacant.

In Wake County, 72 out of 165 detention officer positions are vacant, according to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office will have a job fair on Wednesday, July 13 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wake County Detention Center at 3301 Hammond Road.

Other counties that CBS 17 contacted, including Nash and Halifax counties said about 25 percent of their detention officer positions are vacant.

In Sampson County, the sheriff’s office said about 17 percent of their detention officer positions are vacant and they have also had deputies fill in at the jail to cover shifts.

In Orange County, the sheriff’s office will be expanding their detention officer staff when they open the jail location, and they will soon be looking to fill 15 more positions.

If anyone is interested in becoming a detention officer, click on the links below to apply:

Durham County: Detention Officer Information

Wake County: Recruiting