Deputy Editorial

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By Lydia Long PhD. | September 1, 2013

Thank you, Sheriff Ricky Bishop for fulfilling your campaign promise to lobby for increased pay for the Taylor County Deputies and Jailors. For too long back room politics have prevented the Sheriff from publicly requesting a pay raise. By bringing the pay issues forward during the annual budget hearings you have allowed the public to place the responsibility for the poor pay directly on the Taylor County Commissioners feet. Year after year a 2-3% across the board pay raise has been considered sufficient for all county employees, while at the same time, the insurance benefits have decreased the cost has increased. {{more}} Not only has the cost of living increases not covered rising insurance costs, but some employees are actually making less money every year. And, while this is an issue for all Taylor County Employees, our Sheriff’s Department is at particular disadvantage, due to the added expenses of hiring and training. It is not an inexpensive matter to replace a trained Deputy or jailor who leaves the department. When the Sheriff’s department is short handed they cannot call a temp agency, but must pay overtime to employees, in turn, increasing the personnel costs of the department. In Taylor County, we pay our deputies and jailors the starting wage of $25,300. For years, deputies had to provide their own weapons and most equipment. They have to maintain their own equipment, uniforms and firearm certification. Deputies and jailors both go through many hours of training, initially and on an annual basis. Is it any wonder it is difficult to retain good employees in Taylor County? The Commissioners need to remember that those deputies protect not only every citizen in our County but every employee in the Courthouse, including themselves. Would they work under those conditions for the current pay? The Sheriff’s department provides a variety of services for Taylor county including, patrol , civil process, fire investigations, narcotics, security at the County jail , and Courthouse security. Duties include being not only the first responder, but only responder in many situations. Hundreds of dollars are spent by the department by the time a Deputy or Jailor becomes commissioned or certified. Hiring standards and training are not meant to allow the mediocre in, but to weed out the mentally and physically unfit candidate from the department. Fair pay and benefits increase the applicant pool, allowing for better choice of employees. When those employees quit and go to another department, it not only leaves the department shorthanded, but additional money must be spent on the next new hire. When an officer is commissioned they are swearing to uphold the law in a fair, ethical and professional manner. They are expected perform all their duties while maintaining a smile and not resorting to use of a weapon. Hiring personnel, who do not fully comprehend the importance of their position, results in costly mistakes. Mistakes that can cost lives or open the officer and department to lawsuits that ultimately result from poor hiring and training decisions. The concept of being able to actively recruit new deputies and jailors is a foreign concept to our current Sheriff’s department. Why? Because the abysmally low pay does not allow the department to attract quality candidates and retain them. What often happens is that the quality officer after receiving their training then moves to a better paying department, often on the other side of the law enforcement center. Any law enforcement agency’s effectiveness relies on its ability to successfully recruit, train and retain quality employees. If we want a professional department that attracts quality candidates that represent Taylor County’s needs and demographics, then let’s pay the going wage. Students from our University’s and retiring Air Force personnel go to other cities in spite of already being established in Abilene and Taylor County for a decent living wage and benefits. Adding fringe benefits such as tuition reimbursement, take home cars, health and dental benefits, fitness programs, etc. would increase the applicant pool. Food, gas and clothes cost the same everywhere. Size is not necessarily correlated to pay, but instead the importance the County puts on a professional department. The Commissioners have stated that it would increase taxes to pay better salaries, exactly how much? What does an alarm service cost? As the population and demographics changes in the county, there is an increasing need for more professional deputies with more training. Beggars can’t be choosey. Well, Commissioners, it’s time to be able to be step up and support our Sheriff and the Department. Money talks when you have a choice where to apply for a job and where you stay. And, Sheriff Bishop, while you may not be successful in increasing the pay during this year’s budget cycle you have brought to the public eye the abysmal pay and lack of support on the part of our Taylor County Commissioners for our Sheriff’s department. Show your support for our Taylor County Sheriff’s Department by backing their request for better pay. Lydia Long, PhD. teaches Criminal Justice classes as an adjunct for McMurry University and Excelsior College.