Corrections secretary advocates for change in officer’s retirement

There was a hearing Monday in the Financial Institutions and Pensions committee on a bill that would include corrections officers in the Kansas Police and Fire retirement system.

“The work that our staff does is every bit as dangerous, every bit as demanding physically, psychologically and emotionally as what’s experienced by a law enforcement officer, a firefighter or a first responder, that falls into the KP&F categories,” said Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz. “Our folks deserve, in my opinion, the same consideration.”

The idea is to have more officers and keep them longer.

“I’m looking for tools to get people in the door and once we get them in the door and within our ranks, to retain them,” said Werholtz. “We need good, experienced workers. Approximately 52 percent of our staff right now have less than two years experience. When you have that much of your employee base with that little experience, it compounds the opportunity for errors and mistakes.”

To illustrate the risks, Werholtz showed the committee photos of injured officers, including one from Hutchinson who had human waste, both liquid and solid, thrown on the officer.

“Individuals are able to shower and experience a change of clothes,” said Werholtz. “We typically will send them out to an emergency room or an urgent care situation when they are exposed to human waste like this. One of the things that we don’t know is what else is in that cocktail when it gets thrown on staff. This doesn’t happen every day, but it happens enough that it’s not surprising to anybody when it occurs.”

Werholtz’s point is it’s not just stab wounds or assaults that officers risk, but illness from all sorts of pathogens, as well.