Chronic shortages of Wayne County Jail deputies make mandatory double shifts a regular thing for deputies, according to Bridge Magazine.
The forced overtime is "causing a spike in fatigue, alcoholism and disability, union officials say," managing editor Joel Kurth writes. He speaks with Reginald Crawford, a retired Detroit police officer and former county deputy who has led the Wayne County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association since last year:
"Our members ... are so tired, so fatigued, they are refusing to work anymore. How would you feel if you had to work double shifts, five days in a row?
"Our members are overworked, stressed out and under duress. This is a dangerous situation." . . .
The deputy shortage routinely forces some jail officers to work 60 hours or more a week and contributes to a quarter of jail workers take time off under the Family Medical Leave Act due to stress.
This year, the department instituted mandatory overtime, prompting so much discipline against deputies for declining to work extra hours that union leaders – who also work in the jail – are now devoted full time to defending members at disciplinary hearings, said Crawford, the union president.
As one response, Sheriff Benny Napoleon's department posts openings for $20-an-hour temporary jail guards who aren't sworn law enforcement officers. In addition, county and district courts use electronic tethers to monitor some defendants as an alternative to bond and also let tether release be part of sentences when appropriate.
Napoleon ... said he’s sympathetic to deputies' complaints.
"I don’t disagree with them," he said. "No one minds working occasional overtime, but the way it is, it's keeping them from their families. I understand their stress. But I have a jail to run."
Bridge's 1,600-word post has context about recruiting challenges and the issue of whether cash bail requirements are unfair to some low-income defendants.
Part of the trouble stems from attrition, distrust of police and pay – $35,000 to start compared to the $44,000 median salary for corrections officers nationwide.
Critics contend the county’s deputy shortage could be abated if there weren’t so many inmates unnecessarily filling its three jails. The county annually spends about $15 million in overtime atop $103 million for jail operations, guarding inmates who more often than not remain behind bars because they are too poor to make bail.
The ACLU of Michigan ... found that 62 percent of the jails’ average daily population of 1,600 inmates are pre-trial detainees unable to make bond.
Allen Cox, a vice president of the union with more than 700 members, tells Bridge that a jail deputy who worked 102 hours in one week was suspended six days for refusing another shift because he had to care for his father after double bypass surgery.
"This is a crisis. We have deputies almost driving off the road on their way home, drinking more, getting divorced, being estranged from their families. All because of overtime," Cox said.