his recruiting effort throughout the area

You see Sheriff John Pollack and his staff all over social media. 2nd Story Marketing put together an extensive media plan to try to recruit people to fill open correction officer and road patrol positions, as well as raise awareness of the department.  

The effort promoted the department, but there are still seven correction officer positions open and two on road patrol positions because of the tight labor market, Pollack said this week.     

In corrections, “We have three in training who will begin soon, but we are still down seven.” The county raised wages 7.6% for all employees in the last six months. 

Using marijuana excise tax revenues, county commissioners moved to end the lower Tier II hiring hourly wage.

Corrections officer starting wage now is $19.10. It increases in six months to $19.40 then to $20.02 at the one-year mark.        

Deputy Dalton Turmell resigned to go to Calhoun County. That left an opening with two authorized road patrol positions already unfilled. 

Road patrol starting hourly wage is $23.39 an hour; in six months $23.78, and after one year, $24.17. 

While starting wages are up, those employed by Branch County face high health insurance costs. Because of high usage over the last two years by employees and family, health insurance increased 62% over 2021. 

To cut costs, county administrator Bud Norman brought in a modified plan which allowed employee to obtained lower rates by assuming a $4,000 per person or $8,000 per family deductible. This type of catastrophic coverage will provide lower rates, but does not provide payments unless there is a major injury or illness. Less than 5% of employees opted for this coverage, Norman said in April. 

Almost all law enforcement agencies are struggling to find officers in Michigan, even state police. Its latest academy is taking already certified officers for a shortened training program. 

County Commissioner Jon Houtz, started his career as a police officer before joining the Michigan Department of Corrections and retiring as an administrator. He said Branch County is not an ideal place for most recruits.

“They are looking for places where there is more action than we have here,” he said.

Pollack does pay for training for officers who will come work for Branch County. He encountered a problem with Turmell. Pollack told county commissioners he left after less than two years. 

Pollack said after consultation there is no way for a public agency in Michigan to require a person stay or pay back the county for the training. County legal counsel concurred, he said.

The sheriff approached Michigan Works! That public/private organization can entered into such contracts and has done so with other law enforcement agencies. 

Pollack said he had discussed such a program with the agency. 

The 2nd Story Marketing program, put together by Courtney Dirschell to recruit officers, cost $850. Three month implementation cost $2,400. Pollack had some budgeted funds. County commissioners agreed the rest would come from the county contingency funds. 

The state MICOLES site shows 26 departments are searching for correction certified staff. More than 70 deputies are searching for sworn certified officers. 

In requesting the marketing effort, Pollack said Dirschell consulted on the sheriff’s Facebook page and other media projects.

“It worked out great and has gotten us great results,” he said.

The effort spotlights working in the state’s newest high-tech jail and the quality of staff that works here.