Essex Sheriff lowers hiring age for correctional officers from 21 to 19 to address staffing shortage

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department is lowering its hiring age for correctional officers from 21 to 19 to help address a critical staffing shortage, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger said in a statement Sunday.

“With staffing shortages being what they are, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is expanding its pool of candidates in combination with an enhanced focus on applicant qualifications, staff training, and first-line supervision upon graduation,” Coppinger said. “This is not the first time Essex County has recruited candidates at a younger age. Several veteran officers began their careers here at age 19 and have proven to be very successful in our employ.”

All law enforcement agencies are struggling to fill positions “but the need is even more dire in correctional facilities,” Coppinger said.

“By lowering the age to 19, we can provide an opportunity for younger people to begin their law enforcement career upon graduating high school,” Coppinger said. “Correctional officers are not just responsible for the care, custody, and control of inmates. They are responsible for helping those that come to us leave our facilities ready for life as a successful citizen — and we need more officers to continue to fulfill this mission.”

New correctional officers receive a $2,500 sign-on bonus and a salary of up to $68,000 a year.

New hires are also eligible for the state’s tuition reimbursement program that covers up to 100 percent of tuition at state educational institutions.

“The economy is putting a strain on our families, making it harder and harder for many to pay for college. For high school graduates looking to begin their career in law enforcement, this opportunity provides a high-paying job and tuition reimbursements at state schools,” Coppinger said. “We can help the right candidates get the education and experience they want and join us in the rewarding career in law enforcement.”

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department will begin accepting applications Monday, Feb. 27, from candidates who will turn 19 by June 1, 2023.

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