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Sheriff seeking another raise for jailers as staff shortage worsens

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It’s become a familiar story as area police departments compete harder for officers.

St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman, struggling to attract and retain jailers, is again asking county leaders to increase their pay.

Before the pandemic hit in 2020, Redman says only four of the jail’s 145 correction officer positions were unfilled. Today he says the department is down about 50 jailers.

On Tuesday Redman attended the county council’s meeting and said he’ll soon seek a pay raise raise for correction officers. Redman is proposing a 20% raise, while Steve Dalton, the county’s financial consultant, has instead suggested a possible $5,000 flat raise.

The council already has raised the correction officer base salary 12% for this year, from $41,000 to $45,000. The 20% raise would increase that to $54,000.

It’s unusual for a county department to seek so large an increase after the year has started . That’s usually done at budget time in the fall of the prior year. But Redman says the shortage is worsening.

He says raising the base pay further will help attract more applicants and will help keep veteran jailers from leaving for better pay elsewhere. Until then, the department will keep incurring high overtime costs. At the end of last year the department had to come back to council for $700,000 to cover overtime costs.

"And so there are a lot of dedicated individuals that have worked here many, many years, doing a job that's often times forgotten about," Redman said. "But with the county police that's where I started, in the old jail in 1994. Men and women that have been here 10, 15, 20 plus years and we don't want to lose them."

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).