The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department isn’t just battling crime right now – it’s also battling vacancies.
According to the Guilford County Human Resources Department, there are currently 78 vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Department. That’s up slightly from the end of March when there were 74 vacancies with the following breakdown: 22 vacant deputy sheriff’s positions, 45 detention officer positions and 7 administrative slots. The Sheriff’s Department is a large department with over 600 positions but that is, by all accounts, a very high number of vacancies historically, and it’s much higher than when Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers became sheriff at the start of December.
The department is attempting to address the issue. Max Benbassat, the public information officer for the department, pointed out this week that, for years, the department has had problems filling detention jobs.
“Detention Officer positions have always had vacancies dating back to the prior administration,” Benbassat wrote in an email. “We now have a large number of vacancies both in detention and deputy sheriff positions due to retirements and resignations to accept jobs with more competitive salaries. For instance, we have had a number of officers leave to go to our neighboring agency, Greensboro Police Department, where their starting salaries has been in excess of $50,000 with more competitive benefits.”
While Rogers and his top staff have been pointing to a need for higher pay as the reason for the vacancy problems, others have pointed out that many of the vacancies were created on a single day: when Rogers came in as the new sheriff and conducted a wholesale firing of any department employee that he considered too “loyal” to former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes. Critics also point out that some employees, after Rogers came on, took jobs in other law enforcement departments for lower pay, while others have left for new fields entirely,
Regardless of the reason behind the vacancies, the department is trying to address the problem. The Sheriff’s Department is actively encouraging local media to report its need for workers, is aggressively seeking applicants in other ways and will be an active presence at the 2019 Spring Job Fair at the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday, April 17.
Benbassat said it’s a tough time to fill positions because there are other factors at play.
“In addition to lower wages, Guilford County also no longer offers many of the incentives they did in the past (i.e. Longevity pay, Medical benefits upon retirement, savings bonds through payroll deduction, etc.),” he wrote.
Benbassat stated that, in the past, many of those who sought jobs in law enforcement did so because they wanted to be in a public service position where they were protecting public safety – but now other jobs may look more attractive to them.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being able to adequately take care of yourself and your family,” he wrote. “Outside of law enforcement, people have realized they can make more money with a lot less risk or liability and/or they can go to agencies where the pay is commensurate to the daily risk and abuse by irate citizens either upon arrest or while incarcerated.”
He claimed that now, more than ever, there’s a chance for anyone of any race or background to be promoted in the Sheriff’s Department.
“The good news is the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office now has the greatest diversity of officers in promoted positions than in the history of the agency,” he said. “That means, if you are qualified for the job or the promotion then [if] you are selected nothing else matters.”