Sheriff Jim Cummings Monthly Column: New recruits on the way

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings

By Sheriff Jim Cummings

What do late, great comedian Jack Benny and our incoming recruit academy class have in common? Thirty-nine.

It’s the age Benny playfully lied about when asked how old he was – even long after he’d outgrown it. It’s also the number of correction officer recruits we could be putting on in January when our latest 12-week academy musters for duty — the first such class since early summer, 2015.

It will be the largest for sure, the most diverse in several key categories, and the first to be recruited in some resourceful new ways. More on that later.

Looking at this new class size in context, I’m reminded that about 25 graduated two academies ago and less than 20 in the most recent contingent. Even allowing for a disqualifying background check here and an academy washout there, we’re all but assured of a higher number come graduation day. That’s good news for those who would rather not have to work so many 16-hour shifts, even at an overtime rate for the second half.

And it’s not simply the quantity of these candidates that I like. The mix by gender, education, military service, and age is just as promising. Twenty-eight are males and 11 are females; almost half, 18, have either an associate or bachelor’s degree; the age range is encouraging (21 to 46); and diversity is equally apparent when it comes to national origin – with two Jamaicans, a Brazilian, a Vietnamese, and a Wampanoag Tribe member on the roster.

Ten are former active-duty military or military reservists, which along with relevant post-high school degrees is a useful workplace experience for any cadet mustering in on day one. Line correctional work is called quasi-military for a reason.

It’s a group living at or close to our home base in Bourne. Twenty-five reside on Cape, more than half from Barnstable or Falmouth, and seven more live in one of two towns (Plymouth or Wareham) that border Barnstable County. So more than 80 percent will have a commute ranging from easy to easily acceptable. Others face a somewhat longer hike (New Bedford and Bridgewater are examples), and four will probably wind up moving.

Like Americans from all walks of life, each candidate had a story to tell about what led him or her to 6000 Sheriff’s Place. While all are interesting in their own fashion, one has particular resonance here.

I refer to one of the 11 new female recruits, a woman who came to us a decade ago. She got high marks as a recruit and continued to perform ably in her time on post. But caring full-time for an aging, since deceased parent began to consume more and more of her time. She had no choice but to resign to become a full-time caretaker.

We were sorry to see her go — and are glad to have her back now. If anything, she has additional life experiences under her belt, and that never hurts when you are dealing with sometimes manipulative inmates.

Let’s return to those first-time recruitment stratagems.

One was an outsized poster we got permission to tack up in supermarkets, gyms, libraries, junior college campuses, post offices, town halls, you name it. One adorned Plymouth town hall’s bulletin board for the greater part of the call out phase, so I’m wondering: Did one of the three candidates hailing from America’s Hometown see it there? You never know.

We even had the poster blown up to cinema-screen size and shown in a Sandwich theatre complex. Did a local mover-goer in our incoming academy see previews of coming attractions – literally?

Peter Shea, our HR director, multiplied the poster’s effect by urging the Cape’s non-profits to run it in newsletters; Special Sheriff Jeff Perry conducted a round of radio interviews about the job openings on area stations; Captain Peter Monteiro, our training director, helped finalize a certificate program for COs in conjunction with Cape Cod Community College — a move that helped nudge the concentric circles wider.

Special Sheriff Perry, who helped conduct the 80 job interviews, tells me the initial pile of applications was about the same as in academies past. But with a significant new twist. A higher percentage of them exhibited the qualities we value most in future COs. Another constructive development, perhaps driven in part by these newly employed recruitment techniques.

Will there be some attrition? Of course. But finding 39 people we feel good about hiring could be a wonderful Christmas gift to all of us. Doubly so for those on post now who will find themselves working alongside these new hires. Help is on the way, and it could be just what the doctor ordered.

Until next time . . .



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