INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal hit the ground running after he took office in January. He made hiring more staff one of his priorities.
The sheriff's administration concentrated on hiring detention officers for the jail. He said the staffing levels were critically low.
"We were down nearly 129 people and we have over 100 people in this jail at any given charged with murder," Sheriff Forestal explained. "So, those are dangerous jobs."
The department welcomed 52 more detention officers and 30 new dispatchers to the team since January 2019.
"We've hired just about the same as last year, the entire year," Sheriff Forestal said.
According to the 100 day report, the department hired a total of 103 people in 2018. They count 107 hires in 2019 thus far.
Sheriff Forestal, the mayor, and the city council accomplished allocating more money for the deputies and dispatchers.
"It's about three thousand dollars," Sheriff Forestal explained. "It's still about $10,000 below other counties, but it was a sizable amount to where people noticed it and started to apply."
The sheriff's team made a huge push to recruit new staff through extra bonuses for those already working for the department. The person would get a $250 bonus for recruiting someone they know. If that person applied and passed the training, they get $250. If they stay for at least a year, the person gets an additional $250.
"Nobody's going to get rich in this job, but they should be paid fairly," the sheriff said.
Over at the 911 center, dispatchers are thrilled with the pay. Like the detention deputies, it's the first one in years.
"Our current salary is over $34,000 now, so that's a bump up from 31 thousand initially," Carolea Walters said. Walters is the director of the Public Safety Answering Point.
For a while, Marion County dispatchers were having to do more with less staff.
"We've had to mandate overtime to keep our staffing levels allocated," Walters said.
Walters said her team was feeling fatigued, and it was impacting their personal lives. Sheriff Forestal and Walters said it was impacting the community as well.
The 100 days report said people are waiting an average of 20 seconds when they make a 911 call. That's nearly 30 percent less time than they waited in 2018.
"Anytime somebody's waiting, they think it's an eternity," the sheriff empathized.
Back in November, City Councilman Frank Mascari said they could not keep the dispatchers they trained because they were not paid enough. At that time, they needed to fill 40 positions.
"There’s no simple way of solving it. It’s funding. The city of Indianapolis budgets $1 million and public safety is 69 percent of it," said District 21 City County Council member Frank Mascari in November.
Sheriff Forestal told FOX59 a shortage of dispatchers covering the county's districts was impacting law enforcement too.
"Everybody would like to have their own channel," the sheriff said. "That's understandable, but we would get so short we couldn't do that so we would have to work with another law enforcement agency, IMPD being the biggest. Sometimes the radio traffic, air traffic was so congested they'd have to wait to get on the radio."
If you would like to join the Marion County Sheriff's Office as a detention officer, come to the Indianapolis Police Training Center located at 901 Post Road on May 11. You can find the job description at www.governmentjobs.com/careers/mcso.
Those who would like to join the team of dispatchers, there's a training this Saturday at the Police Training Center located at 901 Post Road. For more information on the dispatch job, visit www.governmentjobs.com/careers/mcso/jobs.