SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office faces a shortage of detention officers, so officials are considering other options to fill the ranks, including traveling across the state to recruit new deputies.
BCSO announced on social media that it would hold a recruiting and career event in El Paso on Nov. 12.
“Right now, we’ve got about 230 unfilled vacancies, and that need is mostly in the jail,” said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.
A 2021 report recently released by Detain, Inc., a jail consulting group, showed BCSO’s percentage of jailer openings was two to three times more than Dallas, Tarrant and Travis counties.
Salazar commissioned the report. The sheriff noted that it showed BCSO had stricter hiring standards than many other agencies.
“There’s about a 15-step process that goes along with applying for the sheriff’s office,” Salazar said. “Everybody hurting for applicants is relaxing their standards, and we don’t necessarily want to do that.”
The sheriff’s office recently implemented a 20% pay increase and a $2,000 signing bonus to stay competitive with other large Texas metropolitan areas and surrounding counties.
Salazar said new deputies have a starting salary above $40,000.
“We’re proud of the pay rate we have. We’re proud of some of the benefits that we have,” Salazar said. “We’re hiring at 18 years old with a high school diploma or a GED. For a young person starting their career at 18, it’s very difficult to find a profession that you can start a 20- or 30-year career at that age and pay grade.”
But the shortage has also led to mandatory overtime for jailers, which costs tax money and leads to longer days for current employees.
“We’ve got upwards of 4,600 inmates at any given time. We have to maintain security in the facility,” the sheriff said. “When the point comes where, according to jail standards, we don’t have enough people physically in the building to maintain our ratio, then we’ve got to keep people on overtime.”
Salazar said staffing concerns are part of the strategy to cast a wider net to recruit potential deputies, including traveling outside Bexar County.
“We’re doing some outside-the-box thinking with regard to trying to bring people into this agency,” said Salazar. “We’ve got a branch out to let people know that this exists here, and that’s certainly what we’re hoping to do with this next trip out to El Paso.”