Recently, I had the opportunity to read a report of a salary study of law enforcement officers employed by the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. The fact that Georgetown Sheriff’s officers are some of the lowest paid law enforcement officers in South Carolina, and almost at the bottom scale on a national level, is very troubling.
In the past four years, there were 48 deputies hired in Georgetown County at an average cost of approximately $10,000 each for recruitment, investigating, training and equipping them. In the same time period, 44 fully trained and experienced deputies fled the department for other, better paying agencies. This has cost the taxpayers of Georgetown County in excess of $400,000 over and above the budget to run the office.
Keeping deputies’ salaries below industry standards is not a prudent way for County Council to balance a budget. Georgetown County would be far better off using that money to increase pay in order to keep experienced officers on our own streets. Georgetown County should pay its officers a rate of pay that is competitive with other law enforcement agencies to maintain a strong and effective Sheriff’s Office.
If Georgetown County Council is dedicated to maintaining a safe and secure community for residents and tourists, then it must demonstrate that it is serious about safety by paying our dedicated law enforcement officers a fair salary. Safe streets make Georgetown County an inviting place for its residents, tourism and business. Safe streets allow the county to be economically strong.
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The writer, president of retired law enforcement group Carolina Shields, lives in Pawleys Island.