OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — As law enforcement agencies across the state face staffing shortages, a new law could be the key in recruitment.
The new law, passed this summer, lowers the minimum age for certain detention and correction officer candidates to 18-years-old.
Some Upstate agencies said this will help a declining job applicant pool.
“Prior to this year, someone had to be 21 years of age to work in a local jail or a local detention center,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “[There were] lots of shortages in local jails across the state. There was some discussion with the General Assembly and Senate Bill 1092 was actually the bill that was passed.”
Law enforcement agencies across the state are in need of recruits.
“The job applicant pool for law enforcement overall has decreased. We’ve seen a decline over the last several years,” Sheriff Crenshaw said.
There’s also a demand for essential employees in Upstate jails.
“Speaking specifically for the detention center, we’re somewhere around 10 down,” said Captain David Baker with the Anderson County Sheriff Office Detention Bureau.
Baker said this new bill will be beneficial to their agency.
“It’s the ability to take a young eager individual who normally prior to this bill, wouldn’t have had the ability to participate in this program or career at that time. Wow, it’s available and it’s a huge asset for us,” Baker said.
“We are not unique here in Anderson, our short-staffing isn’t unique, so it does allow us another group for us to tap into,” Baker said. “We have the ability to start them in this environment here, send them down for training through class two certification and obtain that class two certification.”
“We had gotten up to about eight or nine openings,” Crenshaw said. “I think we are down now to about four or five open positions in our detention center. And for a staff of about 50, that can be substantial.”
“That can really put you in a bind on a particular shift, and trying to make sure all the shifts are adequately staffed and covered,” Crenshaw explained. “Some facilities across the state have large openings. This was certainly done as a hope to increase the applicant pool for law enforcement for local jail and detention centers.”
The new minimum age will help train and develop young talent, by starting employees as detention deputies.
“Maybe they don’t have a desire necessarily graduating high school to go straight to college–they can enter a law enforcement profession, law enforcement career. For Oconee County, that will be at a starting salary of $41,500,” said Crenshaw said.
“It gets them three years into the retirement system,” said Crenshaw. “Gets them three years into learning to communicate.”
“They learn that in a detention setting and then once they become 21, then they can then transfer to uniform patrol or become a sworn officer,” Crenshaw said.
The annual pay for the position in Anderson County is $44,500, Baker told 7News.
“To already start making a salary to have their own benefits, you know, it’s a huge thing,” Baker said. “You know if you have a family, an 18 year old or 19 year old that might have just graduated high school or went on to get their associate degree, now it’s their foot in the door. They have a got the opportunity to earn pretty good salary, have fringe benefits–start building retirement,” Baker said.
It’s a system built to help the next generation, while helping lift burdens in agencies across the state.
“Hopefully start recruiting, start going to career centers, high schools and for those students–like I say–that have made up their mind not to further their education at this point, we’ve got a spot for them here in Oconee County or in any detention center,” Crenshaw said.
Both agencies said they are ready to hire candidates and doing so right now.