'Training Is Lacking Severely': Former OCSO Jail Employee On Why Staff Levels Are 'Critical'
OKLAHOMA COUNTY - After last month’s reports of “critical” levels of staff at the Oklahoma County Jail, News 9 has taken a deeper look into the current shortages at the facility.
Administrators at the jail said many were quitting because of the uncertainty that accompanied the new Jail Trust.
Mark Myers of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said that in an average month, 15 to 20 people leave the OCSO. Yet in August, that number spiked to 46 staff members.
“We cannot have that many people leaving each month, otherwise we will have to declare some sort of emergency,” said Myers. “There are a lot of questions about the Trust. I am not saying this in a negative way.”
OCSO reports the numbers show the concern among the employees.
At the time of the original story, News 9 sought to interview detention officers who chose to leave the jail. One officer, whose identity has been concealed, said they did not leave the jail because of the Trust. Rather, they said the salary was too low, academy training was insufficient, and violence was on the rise.
“I think training is lacking severely,” said the officer. “It has dwindled down from six weeks, to four weeks, to two weeks, and now to three days. Now, people are not properly trained, and they are dropping like flies.”
OCSO said the above statement is misleading.
They said while academy training is three days long, detention officers receive much more hands-on training when they transfer to the jail.
“Our current training for detention officer cadets includes 30-hours of state jail standards instruction. Training in this 30-hour block includes OC spray certification, use of force, safety, handcuffing, and self-defense. Upon completion of the 30 hours, detention cadets report to the jail and complete 80-hours of on the job detention training where they are supervised 100% of the time they are in direct inmate contact. After completing the 80-hour detention training program, detention officers are required to complete 20-hours of online learning and in-service training within the first 12-months of their employment. OCSO training requirements are more than five-times higher than the state jail standards training requirement of 24-hours within the first year,” said Myers.
That former officer said the Trust did add some uncertainty to the situation, but that the system has been broken for years.
After witnessing a handful of assaults on co-workers, and allegedly being cornered by inmates, the officer made the decision to leave.
“I have watched people get stabbed. I have watched people get attacked right before me,” said the officer.
That officer also said elevators are routinely inoperable, and that locks to the doors are frequently broken.
Higher-up’s echo some of the same concerns as the former employee.
Jail officials confirmed they are working to secure the jail cells and said a large issue for them has always been funding.
As for the additional violence at the facility, that appears to be part of the vicious employment cycle.
“Assaults right now are up, a lot of that has to do with a lower number of employees,” said Myers.
He said current employees plan on addressing the Jail Trust at their next meeting about job security and benefits.
Some worry this is a political fight gone too far, and that important issues are being overlooked.
“I don't think there is ever going to be a solution until all sides of the spectrum accept blame for what each side has done,” the former officer said.
That person said the jail has potential. However, there needs to be immediate action, and staff need to be able to financially provide for their families.
The following letter was recently sent to out to employees from the sheriff.
The administration reports if employees can be patient, there will be a grace period after the Trust takes over.
Myers said if people still want to leave after the transition, they will be able to without taking a personal loss.