Nearly half of Wake, Cumberland county detention officer jobs are vacant; 30% of Durham’s open

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Three of the largest sheriff’s offices in central North Carolina are hurting for detention officers.

In Cumberland County, sheriff officials told CBS 17 that 87 out of their 189 positions are vacant, which means 46 percent of their positions are unfilled.

In Wake County, they are experiencing a similar shortage as 86 out of their 198 detention officer positions are vacant. This means Wake County is working to fill 43 percent of their positions.

In an interview with CBS 17 earlier this week, Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said that it’s been challenging to fill positions because he said it seems like right now fewer people are interested in going in law enforcement.

“Some of the civil unrest and some of the things that have happened, the pandemic, all of these things kind of turn them away,” Baker said.

In recent months, Baker told CBS 17 that he has moved some officers around in the jail to balance staffing. On Friday, a Wake County sheriff spokesperson said that deputies have volunteered to work extra shifts in the jail to make up for the shortage of detention officers, but they are not required to do so.

In Durham County, 68 out of their 228 detention officer positions are vacant, which means 30 percent of their positions are unfilled.

“It’s taking a toll on all of us,” said Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead.

Birkhead said he has made it a requirement for deputies to work at least one overtime shift at the jail every month, so they can have minimum staffing requirements in the jail.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Sheriff Birkhead said. “We have to make sure that we care for the 386 give-or-take individuals who are in my care and custody.”

Birkhead said they are working every day to recruit more detention officers. While they are receiving applications, he said they are struggling to find applicants who can meet the required standards.

To try and recruit more qualified applicants, he said he is pushing county leaders for a pay raise for detention officers.

“We haven’t had a significant raise in years,” Birkhead said.

Durham County Sheriff officials said Friday that the starting pay for a detention officer in Durham County is $34,000 a year. This lags behind starting pay in Johnston ($40,274), Chatham ($38,383), Cumberland ($37,746), Wake ($36,108), and Orange ($34,472) counties.

But Durham County does pay their detention officers more than Nash ($33,876) and Sampson ($32,892) counties.

“We have to be competitive with like-size jurisdictions and beyond,” Birkhead said.

If you want to apply for a detention officer position, click on the following links:

Wake County | Cumberland County | Durham County

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