The Oklahoma City Police Department has pulled about 20 booking employees out of the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
“The shortage of manpower at the jail is the main reason for the move,” OCPD Captain Larry Withrow told News 9 in an email.
Jail Trust Administrator Greg Williams said staffing levels are a problem and that they may even be causing safety concerns, but that the problem stems from a hiring freeze before he took over, something the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office said never occurred.
"I think people are just trying to blow this up and make something big out of it and I'm not seeing it," Williams said. "Yeah, I'm short, yeah, I've got vacancies, yeah, I've got people out on COVID and leave, and people that are being tested and waiting for results."
Williams said if low staffing levels were a safety concern to Oklahoma City police, that message was never conveyed to him.
He said between 330 and 340 people currently work at the detention center budgeted for a staff of 400.
Williams said 30 staff members are out after testing positive for COVID-19. However, he said even if the pandemic was not pulling his staff away, he still would be short.
"When the sheriff was leaving, we were transitioning, the hiring process stopped for a couple months so we have some catching up to do to make up for the staff that have left or are leaving that would have been replaced by people that were hired in April, May, June," Williams said.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office said 25 detention officers were hired and completed detention officer training during May and June.
The sheriff's office providing an April 23 email from the department's training coordinator to jail trust leadership saying, "The sheriff has directed us to keep moving forward as usual in terms of detention academies since the date the trust intends to take over has yet to be solidified."
According to the email, training for new detention officers were held April 27, May 25 and June 22.
Williams said he's learned over his extensive career with the department of corrections, and now currently with the jail trust, turnover is inevitable.
"We did get behind on hiring people," Williams said. "If you think about it, your turnover is about as fast as you can hire to go through training, so when you don't hire anybody for a couple months, then you do get a little bit behind on that."
When asked if low staffing levels cause safety concerns, Williams said, "I don't have any way of gauging how much of a risk that creates, I don't really have a way to gauge that."
"The less people you have, the less staff that you have on a shift, that contributes to the safety, absolutely does," Williams said.
The detention center is holding a hiring event Wednesday August 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are looking for clerical staff and detention officers. People can apply in person at 201 N Shartel or email email@example.com.
"I know I've got people out with COVID, but I think all over the country, all over the city, people are struggling with getting employees to come in to work, or people sick or people are quarantining, or self-quarantining," Willaims said. "But I don't think the jail is all that much different."