Brown County Board members are getting fired up over a bill being circulated in Madison.
It addresses a mass exodus of corrections officers at county jails, including the jail in Brown County.
Brown County supervisors are trying to fix the problem but fear it’s falling on deaf ears.
Since the beginning of 2013, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office says 31 corrections officers have left, most for similar jobs, but often for ones where they receive “protective status.”
That means they have the same kind of retirement options and duty-incurred disability benefits that active police officers have.
County corrections officers had that until lawsuits following Act 10.
Without it now, jailers are saying forget that kind of work, putting Brown County at what supervisors call “a big public safety risk.”
The job description for a corrections officer at the Brown County Jail isn’t what most people would call attractive, explains Chief Deputy Todd Delain.
They deal with inmates when they’re at their worst.
“Including at times where they’re throwing bodily fluids on our correctional staff, fighting with our correctional staff, at times trying to injure our correctional staff,” says Delain.
Protective status, where officers could retire younger, helped create job stability.
Without it, the sheriff’s office says it’s paying continual overtime plus an estimated $111,000 just so far in 2015 to hire and train new officers.
“Certainly there’s a cost to protective status, but I don’t think we can afford not to do it,” says Delain.
At Wednesday morning’s Brown County Public Safety Committee meeting, supervisors stressed the importance of changing the law.
“This has no fiscal impact to the state. This should be real simple to get passed and move forward and let the counties take it on,” says Pat Buckley, Brown County Supervisor and Public Safety Committee Chair.
A bill circulating at the state capitol this week would give each county the option of paying for protective status.
Last year, the Brown County Board unanimously approved a resolution supporting it.
They’re hoping that will help pressure state lawmakers to pass the bill.
But they say some state lawmakers don’t like it, and they don’t think Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach does either.
He wasn’t available for an on camera interview, but Streckenbach told Action Two News over the phone he’s concerned it will cost taxpayers millions.
He referred us to the county’s director of administration.
“I think right now we need to do our due diligence to take a look at the bill and see what the price tag is,” says Brown County Director of Administration Chad Weininger.
No one could tell us exactly how much reinstating protective status will cost, but supervisors say the county did not save millions when it was taken away.
Supervisors and the sheriff’s office say the bill isn’t meant to undermine Act 10, but say it would level the playing field since state corrections officers in the prison system still have protective status.
There’s a Friday deadline for lawmakers to sign on to the bill. Representative John Macco (R – De Pere) told Action Two News late Wednesday he is signing on to the bill as a co-sponsor.
LAW supports this legislation and it is our position that Correctional Officers should be considered Protective Status employees.