INDIANAPOLIS — Safely staffing the new Marion County jail, courthouse and sheriff's office is a major concern for some deputies and the community.
WRTV previously reported on the staffing policies that weren't followed at the jail, resulting in an incident that led to the death of a 38-year veteran of the sheriff's office.
An Indiana Fraternal Order of Police representative and Lt. with the Marion County Sheriff's office says the agency is critically understaffed.
Roughly 14 deputies a day are managing the jail averaging around 2,500 inmates.
"Every floor should have at least four officers and they are doing that with about two, so I would say we are about half of where we need to be," said Lt. Marvin Mullins.
Lt. Marvin Mullins says managing the chaos inside the jail, court rooms, and other daily duties of the Marion County Sheriff's Office has become overwhelming.
"It's very challenging. Every officer working there, they are not doing just their job, but they are doing the job of sometimes two, three people," said Mullins.
"How does that impact the safety of MCSO," asked WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson.
"It doesn't just impact our safety; it impacts public safety. If deputies aren't able to respond to something in a timely manner, whether that be in the jail or anywhere in the courts on the complex, you know, that can lead to serious safety, as you know," said Lt. Mullins.
Staffing shortages have been a concern for the sheriff's office for a while.
A July line of duty of death amplified the issue.
Deputy John Durm was killed after transporting inmate, Orlando Mitchell from Eskenazi hospital back to the jail. Investigators say Durm was choked by the chain of the inmate's handcuffs in the sally port.
Mitchell was also able to briefly escape in the jail wagon before crashing into a utility pole.
Jail Division Policies and Procedures requested by WRTV outlines transports to and from Eskenazi "shall have two jail deputies."
While Lt. Mullins couldn't comment on what we found regarding the jail's policies and procedures, we asked "how decisions are made when it comes to staffing one area vs. another."
"It's a very difficult decision to make. You just kind of got to, you know, weigh the risk to reward on it, you know, there's been many times that you have to staff certain areas, and you don't have enough people to staff. and so, then you got to, you know, get together with the other supervisors and figure out which one needs it less. and, you know, sometimes that works. but if things go bad, it's not going to it's going to be well, why wasn't somebody there when we didn't have," said Lt. Mullins.
"It's much bigger than the jail. We have the probation officers there, the drug lab, community corrections, and they're building more things daily. We also have sex offenders that we have to check on, I believe it's around 1,800 that we're responsible for in our sex offender registry, our unit that does that doesn't have nearly as many people to check on those and make sure they stay in compliance with the release. We have warrants team, they're out every night, every day, collecting outstanding warrants, all throughout Indianapolis, and they're critically understaffed as well. So, a lot of these times these guys don't want to come out, you know, voluntarily so they gotta go in and look for him. And you have to have enough deputies to cover the perimeter of the building, any entrances windows to make sure they don't go. And when you're running that, you know, four or five officers, you know, that's most of those are going to be you know, controlling the perimeter. Well, he said one or two guys in looking for, you know, a suspect. So we fulfill many roles outside of just the job," he said.
Lt. Mullins points to low salaries, as the primary reason for severe understaffing.
"If you look at the pay scale for us for the surrounding counties, we are $10 to 15k less than places like Johnson and Hendricks county. We're the largest county in the state. We have the most inmates, our facility is large enough to house all the inmates and all the surrounding counties and still have room yet we're paid less than all those other counties. I feel like that's something that we need to work with the controller on the city council to fix if we're wanting to retain staff, or we're gonna have to pay for him. We're the largest county in the state. We should be paid that way," said Mullins.
Here's a breakdown of salaries by County:
First Year Pay
Marion County Sheriff's Office: $46,920
Boone County Sheriff's Office: $57,836
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office: $62,277
Hancock County Sheriff's Office: $54,000
Hendricks County Sheriff's Office: $59,152
Johnson County Sheriff's Office: $65,500
Detention Deputies First Year Pay
Marion County Sheriff's Office: $40,310
Boone County Sheriff's Office: $46,611
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office: $47,535
Hancock County Sheriff's Office: $48,500
Hendricks County Sheriff's Office: $46,000
Johnson County Sheriff's Office: $49,496