RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Worker shortages are not just a problem for the restaurant business. Law enforcement is feeling it, too.
Right now, about three-quarters of Wake County detention officer positions are filled.
Sheriff Gerald Baker said they have almost 18 people going through correction officer training school right now. He said he just hired nine more who will go through training soon.
Pinning down a reason for the slow pace of applicants is tough. Baker said the unrest from summer 2020 may have turned people away from law enforcement. He said the pandemic has made some people wary of working in a congregate setting.
“The desire to be in this field, kind of, I would say some kind of lost interest in being in law enforcement,” said Baker.
Pay can’t totally be blamed. Wake and Durham counties have about the same vacancy rate at 23 percent and 24 percent respectfully.
Wake County pays more with detention officers start at almost $39,915 a year versus $38,000 a year.
Orange County pays $34,472 and Nash County pays $33,876 a year.
While they pay less, they only have a 5 percent vacancy rate.
“We’re all experiencing the same problem, the same issues with the hiring from some of the smallest counties to the largest,” Baker said.
For now, Baker said he’s moving officers around the different jails to balance staffing. He’s giving them the option to pick up extra shifts.
Officers in Durham are mandated to take extra shifts because of their shortage. CBS 17 obtained internal emails sent to one unit in the Durham County Sheriff’s Office this week that said deputies are now having to sign up to work at least two overtime shifts at the jail for the month of September.
“It’s on the table because if it gets to that point where it becomes necessary to serve and keep that jail safe, then I won’t hesitate to do mandatory shifts,” Baker said.
Baker said filling those spots is about good leadership and accountability.
“We’re bringing them in as hard as we can. We’re screening just as hard as we can,” said Baker.
He knows it’s not an easy job but he hopes more people will step up to the challenge.
“It’s not going to be all roses. It’s certainly going to be about serving this county,” he said.