DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As the number of detention officer vacancies at the Durham County Detention Facility continues to climb, some deputies are now required to work two overtime shifts at the jail per month.
CBS 17 first reported on how Durham County deputies were having to work extra shifts at the jail to make up for the shortage of detention officers on June 3.
At the time, the sheriff’s office had 44 vacant detention officer positions.
On Friday, Sheriff Clarence Birkhead told CBS 17 in an interview that there are now 50 to 55 vacant detention officer positions.
“We are experiencing unprecedented shortages in law enforcement,” Birkhead said.
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.
CBS 17 asked Birkhead if every single sheriff deputy must work two shifts at the jail per month.
“Deputies have been working and continue to work shifts in detention to make sure we are adequately staffed to care for those persons housed in detention, and the number of shifts varies on the need,” Birkhead said.
Birkhead said these overtime shifts will not take away from the deputies’ service in the community.
He said he realizes there is concern about deputies being overworked, as they are working these shifts in addition to their regular shifts as deputies. But he said they have to do what they can to protect the detainees in the jail.
“I’m concerned about everyone being overworked, including myself, but it’s part of the job,” Birkhead said. “I think we’re at a critical place right now and everybody understands we have to do what we have to do.”
Birkhead said they did hire eight detention officers at their job fair back in June who are in training now and will start working soon. However, he said it will be a while before they are adequately staffed again, so deputies will be filling in at the jail for a while.
One thing Birkhead said the county needs to do is increase the pay for detention officers.
“The applicant pool in recruiting those individuals, it’s like an arms race,” Birkhead said. “There are jurisdictions in North Carolina paying more than what we’re paying here in Durham County.”
Currently, the sheriff said Durham County pays its starting detention officers $38,000 a year, which is more than Orange ($34,472) and Nash ($33,876) counties’ starting pay for detention officers. However, it is just under the $39,915 Wake County pays its starting detention officers.
But Durham County is also not the only detention center facing a shortage of detention officers. While roughly 23 percent of the detention officer positions are vacant in Durham County, Wake County is also experiencing the same vacancy rate as 23.68 percent of its detention officer positions are vacant.
Meanwhile, in Orange and Nash counties, only about 5 percent of positions are vacant.