County jail saving thousands with new type of employee - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

County jail saving thousands with new type of employee

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Saving you money, one county jail says a new program is helping put the jail thousands of dollars under budget.

Last spring Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson was facing a problem. He didn't have enough qualified people applying to be deputies.

At the time, the county jail was completely staffed by sheriff's deputies.

From the outside, the Black Hawk County Jail looks the same, but behind locked doors, a year later, a new type of detention officer is punching the time clock.

"It puts a productive member into the mix much sooner," said Sheriff Thompson referring to the seven civilian jailers helping fill the recruiting gap.

"It has actually gone very, very smoothly and I think it was because we surrounded ourselves with really good people right off the bat," said Sheriff Thompson.

Damen Weltzin and Jarad Schilling are two of the new jailers.  Both men have had long-time aspirations of working in the criminal justice system.

"I say it is probably one of the best jobs you can have. You are working with the community, not always the best end, but you always try to make the best of it," said Weltzin.

Weltzin used to monitor the security cameras at the jail, while Schilling is a criminal justice student.

"It really helps in knowing how to deal with people. Practice makes perfect," said Schilling.

The new positions are creating new opportunities and new savings for the department.

"I know that we are 10 percent under budget and in a $15 million budget, that is substantial. It is not completely attributable to the DO program, but it is largely attributable to it," said Sheriff Thompson.

Nearly a year later it is clear just how big of a difference seven civilian jailers can make.

"Being able to inject new people with less vacation earned; new people that don't have the same training obligations so they are not out of our system for six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen weeks for training, those are huge factors that were tough for me to put pencil to paper on. But we have seen that the residual impact of the program is enormous," said Sheriff Thompson.

The civilian jailers go through the same training and tests to manage the inmates, but aren't required to do the extensive law enforcement training like sheriff's deputies.

Over the years, Black Hawk County plans to continue to increase the number of civilian jailers to about half the staff.

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