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Deputies Wanted

Full employment and fewer benefits leave the sheriff short-handed.

by James Leonard

From the July, 2019 issue

The biggest problem we have is staffing," exclaims sheriff Jerry Clayton. "We have to delay the mental health unit because I don't have enough staff."

Clayton solved the seemingly unsolvable problem of supplying police service to townships without bankrupting them by championing the county's successful 2017 police services--mental health millage. More money solves many problems.

But there's always another problem--and this one may be worse. "Police services, we're down 12 percent" in staffing, Clayton reports. "Corrections is [down] 18 percent. We're down 22 positions out of 100."

It's not just a local issue. "It's national," Clayton says. "Some folks are blaming it on the [critical] rhetoric around police. But unemployment is under 4 percent."

At one time, he says, the sheriff's office was "a destination within the profession." But now, he wonders, "how many people want to be in the profession?

"Back when I was coming up, I could've worked elsewhere," says Clayton. But as a deputy he had excellent benefits--"and I knew that I could retire after twenty-five years. All that's been taken out [now], so what's the attraction?

"Because it's a state [pension] system, they can take that and go somewhere else. If you look at the comparisons, in Washtenaw County we're the lowest paid ... The county's always been underpaid compared to Ann Arbor but it's never been to this point."

The sheriff hopes to close part of the pay gap at the next contact negotiations.But there's not much he can do about generational change. "It's a different generation. They don't want to work shift work. And we have another generation that's leaving."     (end of article)

[Originally published in July, 2019.]


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