Ohio county council approves using court security in jail amid ongoing understaffing

Of the 126 CO candidates given conditional offers at a recent hiring event, only 60 were confirmed for hire

By Kaitlin Durbin
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies and protective service officers have been filling in at the jail to offset understaffing of corrections officers, and a recent consolidated hiring event was expected to ease the burden even more. But it still doesn’t seem to be enough to cover the jail’s future needs if retention rates don’t improve.

Adding another stopgap, Cuyahoga County Council on Tuesday approved using court security officers in the jail at two times their regular pay rate, if corrections officers have already exhausted all voluntary overtime and more staffing is needed.

“We don’t need them currently, but now there’s a mechanism in place so if we get in a crisis we can use them,” Sheriff Christopher Viland said.

Cuyahoga County held its first consolidated hiring event last month and will be holding another in December as it attempts to recruit about 90 more COs.
Cuyahoga County held its first consolidated hiring event last month and will be holding another in December as it attempts to recruit about 90 more COs. (Kaitlin Durbin/Cleveland.com)

It’s the same agreement negotiated for protective services officers, said Adam Chaloupka, an attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents corrections officers.

“It’s not ideal, but it is an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands to help until the jail is back up to the 700-725 range of employees,” Chaloupka said.

The county thought it was getting closer to its staffing level goal when the sheriff’s department made conditional offers to 126 candidates following its first-ever consolidated hiring event last month. But of those candidates, less than half were cleared for hire.

Fifty-five candidates did not pass the screening, and 11 others walked away from the offer, county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.

The county previously attributed its steep drop-off in the number of candidates it makes offers to versus the number who actually accept to the traditional month-long screening process, but the one-stop hiring event was billed as a way to fix that. The sheriff referred questions about why candidates still didn’t make it through the process to the county’s human resources department.

The 60 confirmations increase jail staffing to about 610, inching the county closer to the 698 officers that officials have said is needed for the jail to function properly.

The county had previously authorized spending for up to 725 officers, but Council recently recommended reducing the count to 690 in the proposed 2022-23 budget. Council is expected to pass a final budget in the next few weeks.

Chaloupka commended the additions – crediting the spike in interest to the pay raises the union negotiated earlier in the year – but he encouraged the county to continue hiring and working to improve retention to avoid future deficits.

“While it’s too soon to see the effect these new officers have on improving the conditions of the jail (as they aren’t fully working yet in the jail), I know that the more officers employed, the less grievances the OPBA files,” Chaloupka said in an emailed statement.

The county has scheduled a second hiring event for Dec. 14 at Cuyahoga Community College’s Corporate College East.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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