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Union: Untrained workers used to cover staffing shortages in jail

'It's not safe,' says union rep
Posted at 5:02 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 18:31:50-04

CLEVELAND — The union representing Cuyahoga County's protective service officers filed a grievance after it said untrained officers were told to report to the county jail to cover staffing shortages.

Dom Saturday is an attorney with Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union representing Cuyahoga County's 120 protective service officers.

Saturday said the last two weekends protective service officers were pulled from their jobs guarding county buildings and told to report to the jail.

"The only word I could use to describe their reaction to this was total outrage," said Saturday. "Complete outrage."

He said the union was blindsided by the request, and that workers were given a short briefing and then sent to work in the jail with no other training.

"They're very good at what they do which is secure the county properties and deal with people who become disruptive when they're coming in and out of county properties," said Saturday. "But they're not trained to work in a volatile environment like the jail."

A Cuyahoga County spokesperson said Monday that there are currently 86 unfilled corrections officers jobs in the jail. That's about 12% of the 725 positions the jail is budgeted for.

Staffing has long been an issue at the jail.

In its 2018 report on conditions, inspectors with the U.S. Marshal's team wrote that vacancies and excessive staff call-outs "greatly impacted" the jail's ability to provide for inmates' basic needs.

Saturday said the union filed a grievance asking the county to cease and desist using protective service officers to cover holes in the jail's schedule.

He said the union is also planning to file an unfair labor practice charge with the state.

Saturday called the practice of using untrained officers inside the jail "dangerous."

"You don't solve the problem you're having in the jail by taking other county employees and forcing them to go work these jobs," said Saturday. "You solve that problem by hiring more corrections officers."

A county spokesperson said the jail is constantly recruiting new jailers in hopes of filling open positions.

The chairman of Cuyahoga County Council's Public Safety Committee said he plans to question the sheriff about jail staffing at a meeting later this month.

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