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Hiring issues persist with Delaware's police and prisons

Roman Battaglia / Delaware Public Media

Prison funding and Law Enforcement were among the areas the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee focused on Wednesday.

The Delaware Department of Correction has struggled for years to attract and retain correctional officers throughout the state.

DOC commissioner Monroe Hudson says officers are currently working over 1,300 shifts of overtime per week, and 12 percent of the positions remain unfilled.

Hudson says the effects from the pandemic have hurt efforts to hire more staff.

“The way we do business in DOC has changed drastically since COVID hit,” Hudson says. “Moving offenders around, wearing masks — I never thought visiting a prison and going into the COVID center where I would wear a Tyvek suit, gloves, mask goggles. These are correctional officers; they never, ever dreamed they would be doing something like that.”

And it’s not just correction officers the department struggles to hire, the impacts of the worker shortage are also affecting education and reform programs.

Hudson says they’ve made strides on creating more skills education programs for inmates — but the department is still searching for educators willing to teach these classes.

The DOC is seeking an additional $11 million in funding, with much of that going towards the department’s personnel contingency — and an additional $2.5 million is requested for safety and security improvements.

And the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is seeking an additional $6 million this year in part to fund technological and efficiency improvements.

Secretary Nathanial McQueen says both the Delaware State Police and Capitol Police need to modernize their camera systems.

“The use of in-cameras in police vehicles to record police/citizen interaction has been an expectation of the public for many years,” says McQueen. “The Delaware Capitol Police remains behind the norm with in-car cameras deployed in their patrol vehicles.”

McQueen is also seeking almost a quarter million to transition the DSP to a new taser system, which would integrate with existing body cameras and in-car cameras.

An additional $600 thousand in funding wasn’t included in the governor’s recommended budget, including a proposal to separate the Council on Police Training director from the DSP, and combine that position with the director for the Delaware Police Accreditation Commission

McQueen says this change would improve efficiency for police training and accreditation across all police departments statewide.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.