CHARLESTON– A lifelong public safety trail-blazer has accepted a new challenge: help West Virginia find and keep correctional officers.
Joseph M. “Joe” Tyree has been named Director of Correctional Recruiting by Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS) Secretary Jeff Sandy.
DMAPS oversees the state’s prison, jail and juvenile justice systems. At these facilities, West Virginia requires around 2,300 correctional officers to perform a public safety mission as critical as it is challenging. However, one in four of these positions is vacant.
“As our vision, we have to start marketing these positions not as a job but as the beginning of a career,” said Tyree, who began late last month. “We need to look at the long play, and not just the short play.”
With the support of Governor Jim Justice, Secretary Sandy recently secured a $2,080-a-year, across-the-board pay raise for all seven classifications of correctional officers. Secretary Sandy also won approval for a return to the traditional overtime rule for officers.
Echoing Secretary Sandy, Tyree stressed that more must be done to improve conditions for officers as well as non-uniform staff. From revisiting personnel rules to legislative action, Tyree said only meaningful changes will counter the ongoing staffing crisis.
“We all have to come to the understanding that we’re a team, from the secretary all the way down to the rookie,” Tyree said. “It’s all a team effort, if we want to make sure the brightest and the best get in, and that we keep them.”
Secretary Sandy has also asked Tyree to focus particularly on attracting minority applicants. Tyree plans to enlist the minority faith community, by visiting churches and appealing to the parents of potential minority candidates who are at or nearing college age. The goal is also to recruit and develop mentors in mid- and upper-level management positions.
“It is very important that when we bring a young man or a young woman in, he or she can look up and say ‘I can be this guy, I can be a shift supervisor or I can be a warden,’ because they see someone there who looks like them,” Tyree said.
Tyree’s career in public service began in 1970, when he joined the U.S. Air Force and became a Security Police Law Enforcement Specialist. During his seven years in the Air Force, Tyree was stationed around the world while earning a commendation medal for meritorious service as well as both Airman of the Month and Airman of the Quarter honors at his duty stations.
Tyree then joined the West Virginia State Police. He graduated with the historic 32nd Cadet Class – the first to complete the State Police Academy with more than one female or African-American cadet.
“There were five black male cadets and four white female cadets,” Tyree recalled.
Tyree’s 21-year career with the State Police included several firsts for African-Americans: as a law enforcement officer in Putnam County, when he was stationed out of the Winfield detachment; and later when assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). He also served on special assignments and federal task forces, and on the Executive Protection detail for Gov. Gaston Caperton. He retired in 1999, while supervisor of the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit.
Tyree remained in public safety by overseeing Putnam County’s juvenile diversion program, and later as Coordinator of the West Virginia Motorcycle Safety Program at the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
Born and raised on Charleston’s East End, Tyree has called Putnam County his home since 1979. He and his wife of 33 years, have four children, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He is also an uncle to State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree.