Three officers have resigned from the Curry County Detention Center in the last two weeks, leaving a lean command staff.
Administrator Lois Bean said the officers — the assistant administrator, a captain and a lieutenant — cited pursuit of new career opportunities or family issues as their reasons for leaving.
Former Lt. Manuel Gallegos said he worked at the facility for about 11 years, loved his job and worked hard to support the personnel under his command.
But Gallegos said he became increasingly uncomfortable working under Bean, who came aboard in December.
Gallegos said he decided, “I want to be where I’m wanted, I want to be where I know I can make a difference again.
“If you’re not dedicated and if my heart’s not into it, I could not be there for my officers. I told her my heart was not in it anymore,” he said.
Gallegos said he already has another job lined up and plans to stay in corrections.
Bean said she was shocked to hear Gallegos’ comments and surprised he did not discuss his concerns with her before leaving.
The other resignations came from former Assistant Administrator Audrey Barriga, who worked at the jail for about three years and saw the facility through the aftermath of the Aug. 24 escape of eight inmates, and Capt. Richard Benavides, who worked 11 years for the county.
The escape occurred during Barriga’s second week serving as interim administrator after the retirement of Leslie Johnson.
One of the escapees —convicted child-killer Edward Salas, 24 — remains at large.
Barriga on Tuesday declined to comment on reasons for her resignation.
Benavides could not be reached for comment.
The three represent half the command staff of six officers.
Bean said the jail is also short three sergeant positions that have been vacant for some time. Three “strong candidates” have been selected to fill those positions and Bean said she expects those posts will be filled by the end of the week.
Bean said the facility is managing well despite the loss of half its officers.
She expects to begin advertising the positions soon.
“It’s not stressing us out too bad,” she said.
“(Lower-level officers) are getting the supervision they need, we’ve implemented overtime to be able to cover the gaps and such, and mid-level supervisors are stepping up to the plate ... all of us are kicking in and we’re handling things accordingly.”
Bean said all detention officer positions have been filled and following a two-week training academy set to start next week, the new officers will be out on the floor working.
“It is a little more stressful when you’re short detention officers than when you’re short mid-level supervisors,” Bean said, explaining staffing the facility, monitoring inmates and supporting the functions within the jail requires a specific number of detention officers to ensure, “safety and security for the entire population.”
Bean, who began as administrator in December, said she believes the facility is still improving and overcoming deficiencies highlighted by the escape.
Installation of a new camera system to enhance surveillance of inmates is set to be completed this week. Training programs have been increased and safety is improved, Bean said.
“(Detention officers) are getting proper supervision and proper training and they’re getting the information they need to do a good job,” she said.
“I can see that it’s paying off. From the outside it may be hard for a person to see, but the overall progress is being made and will continue to be made.”