Corrections officers promoted

WARREN — Two Trumbull County Jail corrections officers were promoted to sergeant last week under a new testing and assessment system among the rank and file.
The move for Robert Eckenrod and Craig Tomko, who earned their stripes, also is paving the way for a more tiered structure inside the walls of the lockup, according to Sheriff’s Office jail officials.
The first-of-its-kind promotions come at a time when corrections officers recently decided to switch unions and during a week when news cameras were focused on the jail during a five-hour hostage alert. Three inmates captured a corrections officer using a shank made out of plastic spoons and locked themselves inside a high-security pod.
Sheriff Tom Altiere said the new system of promotions removes any appearance of political patronage paybacks.
He said the last round of union negotiations allowed for the new system.
Altiere’s jail administrator, Eric Shay, explained that 12 corrections officers took the test for the positions and five passed the test given by a jail inspector from Solon. Interviews and assessments were conducted by a panel of jail administrators brought in from Lake, Wayne and Mahoning counties.
”They used hypothetical examples of problem-solving, and our COs had to come up with the best answers,” Shay said.
Assistant Warden Dan Lester said that with the creation of a new rank inside the jail, it allows for more supervision.
”But these promotions fill two vacancies, give us six sergeants, and now we have field supervisors on all shifts. Our sergeants will patrol the jail with COs and not necessarily be behind desks,” Lester said.
The rank and file among the corrections officers recently voted out their representation by the United Auto Workers, which served as the union of choice for the past couple of years.
Between March 25 and April 7, 44 eligible voting corrections officers out of a total of 65 voted in the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association by a tally of 27-17.
”The OPBA is the union we had before and they represent most of the jail officers in the state. It’s a more professional union for us. I think we went with the UAW, thinking they were larger and stronger,” said Yale Watkins, a CO and a union representative.