Shortage of officers holds new county jail hostage
Inmates of the Leavenworth County Jail will be moving to a new home on March 7.
Or will they?
Lt. Jim Murray, operations division commander who handles personnel for the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Depart-ment, said the move would occur only when there is adequate staff to fill positions necessary to operate the new jail.
"We're having trouble getting applicants and getting them to show up to take the test," Murray said.
The jail is part of the $24 million justice center which also will house the sheriff's office, the Leavenworth city police, municipal courts for Leavenworth, state and district courts, affiliated court services and communications, Murray said.
Because the new jail will be about three times as large as the current jail, more detention officers will be required to run it.
"We've got 15 additional positions allocated," Murray said, "and I don't have any of those 15 hired yet."
Further, the staff at the present jail is already running two officers short. Murray said there doesn't appear to be a quick answer to the problem.
"We started taking applications in mid-November," he said. "We had 42 applications, and only 20 showed up for the tests. Of those 20, nine passed the test, and of those nine, only four returned their personal history statements that we have to have to look into their background."
One thing is clear: The jail will not move until there is adequate staffing, Murray said.
Lt. Pat Sparks, jail division commander, explained why.
"We have so many positions throughout the new building that if you can't staff it 24-hours-a-day you won't be able to operate it," Sparks said. "Therefore, we'll have to stay where we are."
Part of the problem may be the proximity of prisons.
"The federal prison pays better," Murray said.
The county jail detention officers start at an hourly salary of $10.08, Murray said. State-certified deputies at the jail start out higher, at $11.04 an hour.
Applications must be turned in by Jan. 24, and may be picked up at the sheriff's business office on the north side of the jail, 503 South Third, Leavenworth. Applicants must be at least 21.