DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The number of vacant detention officer positions at the Durham County Detention Facility has grown to 50 and sheriff’s office deputies are having to fill in as detention officers to make up for the shortage.
CBS 17 first reported on the shortage of detention officers in June when the Durham County Sheriff’s Office held a job fair to recruit more detention officers.
Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said in an interview in June that COVID-19 was partially to blame for the shortage.
As of June 3, the sheriff’s office had 44 detention officer vacancies, but since then that number has grown to 50. This means 20 percent of their 243 positions are now vacant.
“We normally run 10 percent vacancies,” Birkhead said during a June interview.
Birkhead was not available to speak on camera on Monday, but his office said deputies are still having to fill in as detention officers at the jail.
Mike Andrews is the former Durham County sheriff and he said having deputies take on extra work could impact their other duties and investigations out in the community.
“When that happens, their normal assignments, those things that are waiting, will just have to wait,” Andrews said. “Whether they’re break-ins in the county, or other crimes that have occurred, things they could be working on, will have to wait.”
Andrews said recruiting detention officers isn’t easy because not everyone can make it through the screening process which includes an obstacle course, a reading comprehension test, as well as background and credit checks.
“There are so many steps that can eliminate you from becoming a detention officer,” Andrews said.
Also, with only a few training academies in a year, Andrews said it could be a while before the agency can fill all 50 vacancies.
“Fifty positions short, they’re in a very critical stage,” Andrews said.
Durham County sheriff officials said that they received 25 applications at the job fair in June and eight of those people are currently in the hiring process now. Officials said those eight will be attending the training academy scheduled to start Sept. 20, 2021.
CBS 17 found out that Durham County isn’t the only county experiencing a shortage of detention officers.
In Wake County, officials there say they currently have 78 detention officer vacancies out of 459 positions. This means 17 percent of the detention officer positions in Wake County are vacant.
In Nash County, officials said they have five vacant detention officer positions out of 56, which means they have a vacancy rate of 9 percent.
But Orange County isn’t experiencing a shortage at all, as the sheriff’s office there said all 40 of their detention officer positions are filled.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of planning its next job fair. If you are interested in applying for a job, click on the following link.