County board should raise pay for deputies

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 27, 2014

We hope that Sheriff Martin Pace does not get the short end of the stick again this year. The Board of Supervisors are in talks about the 2015 budget and Pace has again pushed for higher pay for his deputies. “I have always tried to attract and retain truly professional officers for this county,” Pace said. “If you look across jurisdictions, they are head and shoulders above most local officers.”
The department has estimated $3.9 million in spending for fiscal 2015, or about a half-million less than an entry noted on the county’s first-draft budget last week. Pay raises of 5 percent for the respective chiefs of investigation and patrol and 3 percent for most other uniformed officers and jailers were requested in an eight-page report submitted to the county earlier this month. In it, eight new full-time positions are requested — three new jailers, an investigator, a street patrol officer, a receptionist, an evidence clerk and an IT technician exclusive to the department. Thirty-three uniformed officer positions are listed on the request, one fewer than last year.
Last year the board stood up and protected the volunteer fire districts by approving a 2 mill tax hike for updated trucks and equipment. No one will dispute that volunteer fire departments are important and that they need quality equipment to perform their duties. The hike though was a significant one, increasing local tax bills up to $20 for every $100,000 assessed. This year’s property taxes are expected to increase at the same rate to fund the school district’s decision to tack 2 mills onto its current millage rate. That estimate might grow slightly before a final budget is adopted in September, as VWSD trustees last week approved a $27.6 million request for dollars from the county to fund the millage hike.
Pay raises effective July 1 for the Vicksburg Police Department allowed for 20-cents an hour raises each year, depending on experience, and 50-cents an hour after the tenth year of service. The boosts were part of a larger round of raises across city government. Entry-level pay at VPD and WCSO is about $29,000. District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon didn’t refer VPD’s raises specifically, but broached the issue of salaries between city and county law enforcement agencies.
“I think they need to be comparable in salaries,” Selmon said.
Perhaps the board thinks law enforcement happens magically, that criminals voluntarily report their crimes to agencies and then place themselves in custody. Better yet maybe people will just stop committing crimes altogether, knowing that the county only can hire entry level officers to fill the positions vacated by more senior officers.
Maybe crime will increase drastically throughout the county, and our more senior officers will stick around to fight the good fight, risking life and limb for the paltry wages the board thinks they deserve. We hope the board chooses to do the right thing and will adequately pay those who rush towards danger while everyone else runs away.

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