Sheriff struggles to fill vacancies

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 3, 2007

WINDSOR – &uot;We’re having a little bit of a drastic situation here.&uot;

Those were the words of Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins in a recent work session with the Bertie County Commissioners.

Atkins was referring to the dire need for sheriff’s deputies within the county.

Apparently, many deputies have recently left for better-paying jobs or jobs in another location and not many have applied to fill the vacancies.

&uot;There are major hiring and retaining problems. People just don’t want to live here. Recruiting people is getting to be almost impossible,&uot; Atkins told the commissioners.

He said that in his nine years as Sheriff, his department has lost 40 people. Of those, 17 left to work in other agencies and 10 left to get out of law enforcement completely. The rest were either fired, moved, left for health reasons, died, retired, or failed the training.

&uot;Those numbers say something… being a sheriff’s deputy is getting to be a job no one wants to do,&uot; Atkins stated.

He added that one main thing deputies apparently dislike doing is serving legal papers on people all the time, something that is necessary in their line of work.

&uot;I’m not sure what the answers are (to hire and retain people); I’m sure money is an essential component… but I don’t think that’s the whole reason either,&uot; he said.

Atkins reminisced how it used to be tough to find a job in law enforcement, whereas today the job market for trained officers has done a 180-degree turnaround.

&uot;You don’t have to look very far to get a job in law enforcement these days. Why would people come here when they can go somewhere bigger and get paid more at the same time,&uot; he questioned.

Chairman of the Commissioners Rick Harrell agreed that there was a problem.

&uot;I don’t know what we can do as far as retaining them, but we can certainly look at offering more money to get them in the door,&uot; he stated.

Atkins revealed that there have been no certified candidates to apply for the vacant deputy positions since it has been advertised.

&uot;The only applicants we’ve received were uncertified. To hire them, we’d have to send them to school and that gets very expensive,&uot; he stated.

The current starting &uot;hiring rate&uot; salary for an uncertified deputy with the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office is $27,759.

Atkins and the commissioners talked about raising that amount to $30,000 for a certified deputy with a pay increase to $31,500 after the probationary period, or $28,500 for an uncertified person with a later pay increase to $30,000 pending certification and the $31,500 after the probationary period.

According to Atkins, all deputies with the BCSO currently make the minimum salary of $29,147 or more annually.

&uot;If the starting salary for new deputies is raised, everyone else should be raised to that minimum amount as well,&uot; County Manager Zee Lamb interjected.

The county may consider a raise for all employees as well if this measure is passed.

No action was taken during the work session, but Harrell stated it would be addressed at a meeting in the near future.