Armed and unarmed court security officers at the Morton Holbrook Judicial Center will receive raises on Jan. 1 in a move that Daviess County Sheriff's Department officials hope will assist with hiring and retention.

Fiscal Court approved the raises, which go into effect when the sheriff's department's 2020 budget starts in January. Most of the court security personnel are part-time, with unarmed security officers earning $8 when hired and armed part-time officers receiving $11 an hour.

With the raises, unarmed court security officers will earn $12 and armed officers will earn $16 an hour.

"Hopefully, that will help us with our hiring" for the judicial center, said Major Barry Smith, the department's chief deputy. "We struggle from time to time to fill those part-time positions."

Three security positions at the judicial center are full-time and 18 are part-time. The part-time officers can work a maximum of 99 hours a month.

"There are no benefits," for part-time staff, and little chance of becoming a full-time officer at the judicial center, Smith said. For retired law enforcement officers, who are Police Officer Professional Standards (POPS) certified, the private sector offers more lucrative opportunities than working for $11 an hour in court.

"At $11 an hour, we're not real competitive," Smith said. Also, becoming a court security officer requires the candidate to undergo a background check, take a lie detector test and attend two weeks of training at the Department of Criminal Justice Training in Richmond, which some candidates decide is too-involved of a process for the pay, Smith said.

"They have to go through everything a police officer does, except for physical POPS testing," Smith said. The job also involves dealing with prisoners brought to court for hearings and transporting inmates from the detention center.

"We used the unarmed guys to do transports and do video arraignments at the jail," Smith said. There are two open positions in court security that the department is the process of filling.

"We've tried to advertise we are raising the salaries on the first of January," Smith said.

The raises Fiscal Court approved for court security will amount to $138,000 annually, paid out of the sheriff's budget. The office receives a $9 an hour reimbursement for court security from the Administrative Office of the Courts, which does not cover the salary and benefits of three full-time court security officers.

"It's the sheriff's constitutional requirement" to provide court security, Smith said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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