Thirty-six people have quit or retired from the Oklahoma County Jail in the past month, according to administrators. Those officials said many of those staff members shared concerns with their future benefits and compensation.
“There is so much uncertainty surrounding the Jail Trust, and surrounding the future jail administrator. People are leaving in droves,” said Mark Myers of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. “The majority of them saying because of the uncertainty that they have to have to find some security somewhere else.”
The sheriff's office cites a resolution, that notes "employment, retirement and benefits" will be "comparable to those that they are currently enjoy..."
The word "comparable" is too vague for some.
For the time being, the jail has had to cut programs and tours of the facility, such as their “Reality Check” juvenile class and therapy dog sessions, due to the staff shortages.
There are also concerns that some might lose their commission when a new administrator takes over jail operations. Myers said it’s unclear if that will happen.
“There is no promise that they will be able to keep their commission. Those are 67 police officers who are going to lose their commission,” he said.
Commission means, a CLEET certified licensed peace officer.
Myers said in turn, those with the most experience are leaving the sheriff's office.
“These are the folks that know how to operate, that know how to interact with the inmates here,” he said.
OCSO also commented that funding should be secured ahead of any major changes.
However, they said while they have asked questions, they have gotten little response.
Though some are still hopeful for answers.
“How is someone going to come in here with no additional funding, with a short staff, with senior staff that has bailed, a crumbling structure, how is someone going to come in here and make it better?” asked Myers.
In a statement Friday, Jail Trust member Kevin Calvey responded:
“It's sad that the sheriff's office is once again attacking the citizen-led Jail Trust by misleading the public and its own employees with scare tactics. The sheriff's office itself noted at the last Jail Trust meeting that its ordinary employee turnover is nearly 60%. The number of employees leaving now is comparable to that 60%, and most of those left BEFORE Monday's Jail Trust vote to hire a jail administrator.
For them to claim employees are leaving over concerns about retirement is provably false - only two sheriff's employees leaving recently have even applied for retirement benefits. Most of the employees leaving recently haven't been employed long enough to receive retirement benefits. Many of them have been employed less than a year.
The truth is that the Jail Trust voted specifically to maintain current job security, retirement and health benefits for jail employees even when the Trust actually takes over jail operations. I myself will try to raise the pay of detention officers, by cutting wasteful spending elsewhere. Employees who continue to work at the jail will see better working conditions after the Jail Trust takes over operations from the sheriff's office.”
Those with the jail hope to address these concerns at the next Jail Trust meeting.