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Law enforcement agencies struggle to find qualified workers

Law enforcement officials are having a difficult time finding qualified people to fill vacant corrections officers jobs at area jails.

In Greene, Miami and Warren counties, applicants are failing either the written, physical and psychological tests or extensive background checks. Hiring is not an issue with Montgomery County, but it struggles to keep the corrections officers it hires.

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said he is trying to hire 10 corrections officers to get closer to the 82 corrections employees assigned to inmate management in 2008. In 2009, the county laid off 11 corrections officers and closed part of the jail in downtown Xenia. The sheriff’s office is staffed with 65 employees who are assigned to the corrections division for inmate management, according to county corrections data. Fischer said said the new corrections officer jobs are included in the sheriff’s office’s $12.5 million budget this year.

“We’re having a hard time finding qualified people to become corrections officers,” said Fischer.

About 63 people applied to take the Greene County corrections officer exam on Nov. 22. That number is a 34 percent drop compared to the 96 applicants in 2012.

Greene County had a 30 percent drop in the number of corrections officers between 2008 and 2011. The number of officers dropped from 82 to 57. The number of corrections officers held steady at 57 in 2012 before increasing by 14 percent this year.

In the Dayton-metro region, the annual mean hourly wage for corrections officers is $19.40, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. The starting salary for corrections officers in Greene County is $15.69 per hour.

Earlier this month, the Dayton Daily News reported Miami County was seeking to hire four more corrections officers to reach the maximum number of officers included in the budget, 48, after opening an additional section of the jail where inmates are housed over the summer.

The sheriff’s office has given the corrections officer test four times this year in an attempt to hire more corrections officers. In a previous interview with the Dayton Daily News, Deputy Dave Duchak said many candidates passed the written and physical test, but were not hired because of lie detector issues or failed oral or psychological assessments.

Miami County Sheriff Charles Cox did not return phone calls from the Dayton Daily News seeking comment.

In Warren County, the challenge has been finding female corrections officer candidates, said Larry Sims, the county sheriff.

“We seem to get enough applicants, but to get qualified female applicants has been difficult,” he said. “We haven’t had to much of a problem finding male corrections officers,” he said.

Sims said the candidate pool dwindles as applicants are eliminated for various reasons such as failing the written, physical or psychological tests.

“It’s a tough job, so getting somebody to come in with the right temperament, the right personality and skill sets can be tough,” Sims said.

The county has an annual corrections budget of $7.2 million that includes authorization for 23 female and 33 male corrections officers. Two positions, one male and one female, are vacant at this time.

Montgomery County doesn’t have a problem finding recruits, but has a hard time keeping the corrections officers they hire, said Phil Plummer, the Montgomery County Sheriff.

“Typically kids don’t want to stay in corrections,” Plummer said. “It’s a way to get their foot in the door … Very few people want to be a corrections officer.”

Montgomery County has 120 corrections officers. The county has hired a total of 69 corrections officers over a five year period and the number of officers hired annually has almost tripled from seven hired in 2008 to 22 hired so far this year, according to county data.

Plummer attributed the surge in corrections officer applicants to the downturn in the economy.

“Actually due to the economy, we’re getting a more educated workforce,” Plummer said. “We’re getting kids out of college that have bachelor’s degrees, some master’s degrees. In the past when the economy was good, it was difficult getting employees both sworn and non-sworn, but it’s not right now.

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