Petition started as families grow frustrated over detention center staffing shortage

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Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 19:09:46-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Families of Fayette County Detention Center officers have started a petition to call attention to ongoing staffing challenges at the jail.

After years of sounding the alarm and two years of sometimes messy negotiations, the city of Lexington and the union representing its corrections officers finally made a deal in February.

The petition comes as frustrated family members say the collective bargaining agreement will not resolve the issue fast enough.

"This is the first time that I've been president that someone outside of our board or from outside of the union is looking and actually standing behind us and I support that dearly," said Michael Harris, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 83.

Harris says they're still more than 100 officers short and will need a bigger budget contribution from the city to make conditions safer.

"Maybe this will be the little bump to help us out with the city on this track. That's one thing I'm trying to, if they ask for more money to get the budget for recruiting, that's what I'm looking for. So, we can really flood the airwaves and the different social media to try to get more applicants through," said Harris.

The petition states the signee's intent to hold "Mayor Linda Gorton, city council and detention center administration civilly and if possible, criminally liable" if something happens because of the shortage.

Leanna is one of those family members.

"There's a lot of talk between the officers that work there and their families. I'm not sure if people who aren't involved in this situation realize how bad it is," she said.

According to the city, from January 2021 to February of this year, the Fayette County Detention Center has lost 120 officers. There are currently 167 officers, yet a fully staffed jail has 278.

So far, the petition has the support of 206 signatures.

Leanna says families can't afford to wait.

"I hope that maybe they can get more people on board faster like hired on faster," said Leanna.

They are hoping the petition serves as a wake-up call before it's too late.

"There's not enough staff. So, I get that, but you have other resources you have other options I know that there are these safety nets that are supposed to be in place," said Leanna.

Mayor Linda Gorton's office said on Wednesday, they would not be commenting on the petition.

However, they say they've increased salaries at the detention center in hopes of attracting new employees and it is beginning to work.

They've since hired 9 new corrections officers, reinstated one, have two starting Monday, and have five more in the process.

"The safety of everyone at the Detention Center – inmates and officers – is of primary importance," they wrote in a statement.