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Sedgwick County sheriff hopeful pay increase will help county add, retain jail deputies

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 3:39 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said the county jail is in desperate need of more detention deputies. He’s hoping a pay increase will help the county keep and hire more deputies at the jail. Wednesday morning, April 7, Sedgwick County commissioners approved Easter’s $2.1 million request to do just that.

“As a commitment to this effort, the Sheriff’s Office is increasing the starting wage of $15.92 to $18.96 an hour. These increases will translate to a per hour increase of approximately $3 for those in the detention deputy and detention corporal ranges,” Sedgwick County explained in a news release on the approved pay increase. “The estimated impact of the increase is $2.1 million annually for salaries and associated labor tax. No additional budget authority is necessary because of projected salary savings in the Sheriff’s Office current budget.”

The sheriff’s office is down nearly 100 detention deputies, but the Sedgwick County Jail is still crowded. Since the department doesn’t have enough staff, it’s started moving some inmates to out-of-county housing. The department has also had other sheriff’s office employees pick up shifts at the jail to help. But Sheriff Easter said the only real solution is to hire and keep more detention deputies.

The Sedgwick County Jail remains crowded as courts are still backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, 98 positions with the sheriff’s office need filled. To keep the jail staffed, commissioned officers, upper command and even the sheriff are picking up shifts.

“Including myself. I worked there last night, twice last week,’ Easter said.

And the amount the county is paying in overtime is more than it would cost to hire more deputies. But Easter said the root of the problem is low retention.

“We used to see it at the two-and-a-half to three-year mark, people were leaving. Right now, it’s at the six month to one-year mark. So they’re barely out of training and they’re leaving,” Easter said.

There are a handful of reasons the detention deputies are quitting. Some want to become commissioned officers or police. Others quit out of fear of catching COVID-19 in the jail.

The most common reason:

“What I hear from deputies is it’s the pay, it’s the burnout, it’s the overtime since we are short personnel,” Easter said.

He said the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office is losing many deputies to other nearby counties and cities that have raised their starting pay. some of them are more than $2 more per hour than what Sedgwick County offers, starting out.

Neighboring counties/departments starting pay:

  • Butler County Sheriff’s Office $18.30/hour
  • Kansas Department of Corrections $18.26/hour
  • Reno County Sheriff’s Office $16.06/hour

Currently, Easter said the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office has 16 recruits that should start soon. But even then, the department will have about 80 positions to fill. If interested, call 316-660-3900.

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