County needs to step up for its deputies

Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey insists that his deputies, investigators and detention center employees deserve a raise, especially when their salaries are compared with those in similar positions in other counties.

He’s absolutely correct, and we are happy to see that the county commissioners agree — kind of.

Kersey spoke to the Scotland County Board of Commissioners on Monday, approaching the podium without any idea exactly how he would begin or proceed. But he had the topic of raises firmly in his mind.

With numerous deputies and Sheriff’s Office employees in the crowd to show support, Kersey said he would be speaking from his heart and not from his head — and that’s exactly what he did.

For the next several moments, the sheriff rolled out number after number, fact after fact and reason after reason that his deputies should be given a substantial raise in the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year budget. Kersey’s potential “substantial raise” equated to 15% — which, if applied to the patrol and detention center deputies, would increase Scotland County’s proposed $46 million budget by about $450,000.

Do it.

Yes, an increase in the budget of $450,000 is a pretty good chunk. County commissioners stated that they would consider stretching a proposed pay raise for Sheriff’s Office deputies in the budget from 5% to 7.5%, — with the intention of getting the remaining 7.5% down the road.

Not good enough.

When county leaders can squander away $575,000 in a state grant because of deceitful practices and negligent management practices — and then gloss over the results and twist them into a faux positive — but get “frugal” with taxpayer money when it comes to paying its law enforcement officers, well, something isn’t right.

Kersey told commissioners that Scotland County has all but become a training ground for Sheriff’s Office deputies who end up leaving after about three months to take better-paying positions in surrounding law enforcement agencies.

“… we’ll be up a creek if this keeps happening,” he said.

And he’s right.

The numbers are staggering. Kersey said his department has lost 19 deputies in the past 18 months. Fourteen left for better pay. And it’s not just for a minimally better paycheck. Most of the law enforcement agencies in the region are offering starting salaries that top Scotland County’s by nearly $5,000 a year.

But here’s the kicker: Even a full 15% raise in salary for Scotland County deputies will only bring them in line with their area counterparts right now. Many of those agencies are going to get a raise of their own next month, which would put Scotland County substantially behind once again.

We are certain they won’t, but commissioners need to rethink their consideration of a 7.5% pay raise with the intention of getting to the rest of the 15% later. Whenever “later” finally arrives, our county law enforcement officers will find themselves lacking again.

Our county needs to bite the bullet and give Kersey what he asked for … a full 15% pay raise for his deputies now.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Law enforcement officers are never ‘off duty.’ They are dedicated public servants who are sworn to protect public safety at any time and place that the peace is threatened. They need all the help that they can get.”