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Recruitment and Retention Study Series: Detention Facility Personnel

NCJ Number
Douglas L. Yearwood
Date Published
April 2003
30 pages
This report examines the issue of recruitment and retention among North Carolina’s public safety agencies, specifically detention facility personnel.
In the summer of 2000, a joint planning retreat was held by the Governor’s Crime Commission, the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission identifying and discussing the major emerging issues in the State’s criminal justice system and its public safety personnel. As a result, a study team was comprised that determined that several smaller studies targeted the unique attributes and features associated with recruiting and retaining sworn police personnel, sworn sheriff’s office personnel, detention officers, and public safety telecommunications officials. This report is one in a series which examines the issue of recruitment and retention among North Carolina’s public safety agencies with a focus on detention facility personnel. A 3-part, 22-item survey was developed addressing the issue of recruiting detention officers, specifically recruitment strategies and techniques, the number of applicants, and the extent to which the responding agency had a backlog or waiting list of potential candidates; the attrition and retention of detention officers, specifically the agency’s turnover and vacancy rates and how these rates varied over the past 3 years; and agency’s comment and/or suggestions regarding all recruitment and retention issues. A total of 43 surveys were completed with a return rate of approximately 55 percent. Result highlights include: (1) over half of the respondents described their recruitment strategy as being neutral or non-aggressive nor overly passive; (2) most frequently employed techniques were word of mouth, community colleges, and newspapers; (3) effectiveness ratings in recruitment techniques closely mirrored the extent to which agencies used the various techniques with the most frequently used methods; (4) over half do not currently have a waiting list or backlog of qualified officers; (5) the number of applicants, per position, ranged from 1 to 33 with a statewide average of 7.6 applicants per vacant position; (6) turnover rates ranged from 0 to 80 percent with an average rate of 21.4 percent; (7) the most popular retention strategy was annual pay increase; and (8) budget restrictions was the most frequently discussed factor in explaining why officers left the department. Three recommendations were presented and included: (1) recruitment efforts should be intensified to include the exploration of non-traditional techniques, such as the Internet; (2) use of other retention techniques, beyond increasing salaries; and (3) more in-depth analysis to ascertain the nature and extent of applicants who have prior criminal histories.