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Tough hours, better pay in cities make it hard for smaller counties to recruit law enforcement staff

Posted at 7:23 PM, Nov 14, 2023
  • Mills County Chief Deputy Josh England manages the jail for the county and he's struggling to keep it staffed — especially with female detention officers. Many jailers can take similar jobs in Pottawattamie County or Douglas County and make more money.
  • In Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope says they're fully staffed for the first time since 2019, when his community was hit with catastrophic flooding.
  • "Law enforcement is just so tough because it's 24/7. I've got to have someone here all the time. I have to have a female on my jail staff all the time," said Aistrope.
  • "With us being so close, a lot of people will either start with us and then, they're like 'Hey, I can go to Pottawattamie County or Douglas County or Sarpy County and start off making what a five-year detention officer would make in my facility," said England. 
  • Mills County job opportunities are listed here: millscountyiowa.gov/Jobs
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The 911 dispatch center in Mills County

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

It's no secret that law enforcement recruiting over the last couple of years has been really tough. And in rural communities, it's even more difficult. I'm Southwest Iowa Reporter Katrina Markel and I spoke with sheriffs in both Fremont County, Iowa and Mills County about the challenges and they say – among other things – it has become a public safety issue.

"Well, in a jail, what it causes is, I have to bring deputies off the road because if i've got one jailer or two jailers working…I have to bring deputies off the road, which hurts me on the roadside because things are going on out there also," said Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope.

Aistrope says corrections, dispatch and deputy positions are fully staffed for now — the first time since the 2019 floods.

In Mills County, Chief Deputy Josh England says a female detention officer just resigned — leaving at least two open positions at the jail. 

"With us being so close, a lot of people will either start with us and then, they're like 'Hey, I can go to Pottawattamie County or Douglas County or Sarpy County and start off making what a five-year detention officer would make in my facility," said England. 

It's also hard work, unconventional hours, weekends and holidays.

"Law enforcement is just so tough because it's 24/7. I've got to have someone here all the time. I have to have a female on my jail staff all the time," said Aistrope.

Travis Hitchcock the 911 communications director in Mills County told me over the phone that he's considering some creative solutions to staffing, including, once he has enough employees, considering a four-day work week.

And sometimes counties have to help each other…

"Chief Deputy (England) contacted me and said 'Hey, if I can't recruit females to man my jail, will you take my female population?" Aistrope added. 

That would cost Mills County more money. Not an ideal scenario.

"It’s just a vicious circle. It takes away from somebody's job to do somebody else's job," said Aistrope.