Status Update: Local jailers no longer considered "protected" e - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Status Update: Local jailers no longer considered "protected" employees

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Chippewa County (WQOW) - The question of whether jailers are law enforcement officers is important.  The answer impacts the budget and could also affect morale.

Currently, Chippewa County jailers are considered "protected" county employees.  They're considered law enforcement officers which shielded them from Act 10.  They didn't have to pay in for retirement.  That's about to be amended.  The county will change their status to "non-protected," which means jailers will be considered the same as any other county worker who is not in law enforcement.  They'll have to abide by Act 10.

"Many of the duties and responsibilities of the jailers are of a non-protected status.  They monitor and manage and oversee clients, or the inmates within the facility," said Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella.  Eau Claire County has done this for more than 20 years.  The difference in Chippewa County is that its 22 jailers are all sworn law enforcement officers and have been for 25 years.  "They did have the opportunity to work patrol shifts.  Our jailers do, and will continue to work Country Fest, Rock Fest," said Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk.

The law says they still can do those jobs as long as their primary responsibility (51%) is in the jail itself.  "It's not really law enforcement in nature, it's custodial in nature," said Pascarella.

The county will save about $200,000 a year with the change.  "Twenty-five years of protective status, and now here in 2012, this becomes an issue?  I think the driving force behind this was indeed the budget restraints and meeting budgets," said Sheriff Kowalczyk.

The county administrator says that's not the case.  "We feel we have a professional and ethical responsibility to follow the state statutes.  This is the primary reason why we're doing it," said Pascarella.

Chippewa County jailers will see changes on their paycheck beginning next year.  The same transition is being made in Clark County.  The state's largest law enforcement union says it will file paperwork with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.  It wants to determine who qualifies under a "protected" status in law enforcement.  That could pave the way for an appeal of decisions made at the local level.

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