DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — On Thursday, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said his office is in dire need of detention officers as almost 20 percent of the positions are vacant.
Currently, there are 44 vacant detention officer positions out of 243 positions, which means 18 percent of Durham county’s detention officer positions are unfilled.
“We normally have a 10 percent vacancy,” Birkhead said.
Birkhead said COVID-19 is partially to blame for the detention officer shortage, as it has been difficult to recruit workers.
“Right now, as you all have seen, there are a number of people not going back to work,” Birkhead said.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Office held a job fair on Thursday and about 30 people came out to the event.
Currently, there are 17 vacant sheriff deputy positions.
Birkhead said it’s crucial that they start recruiting more detention officers, as right now he said some sheriff deputies are having to pull extra shifts in the jail.
Birkhead said he is not requiring all deputies to work overtime in the jail, but he said it could come to that.
“From the highest rank down to the last detention officer hired, I expect those men and women to pull their weight until we get through the staffing shortage,” Birkhead said.
He is pushing for the Durham Board of County Commissioners to increase pay for detention officers.
Currently, the starting pay in Durham for a detention officer is $34,000 for an uncertified officer and $36,769 for a certified officer.
CBS 17 reached out to other counties in North Carolina to find out what their starting pay is for detention officers.
While Durham pays more than Nash County’s starting pay of $32,888, Durham is lagging behind the starting pay for detention officers in Cumberland ($36,500) and Wake ($38,000) counties.
“We have to recognize that we are slightly behind the state average, other agencies, and certain cities similar in size,” Birkhead said. “So we’ve got to do more to get our salaries up to be more competitive.”