Going against the “skepticism” of other law enforcement leaders, Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch expressed his support Tuesday for the state law enforcement officer pay raises proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Couch released the letter while meeting with the local heads of state agencies that interact almost daily with the Sheriff’s Office.
“Pay increases for our state law enforcement officers are long overdue,” Couch wrote in the letter. “For years, they have lagged behind national averages and as a result, have faced difficulty in attracting quality candidates and keeping their ranks filled, which in turn reduces the amount of support they can provide to local agencies.”
The initiative is a 20 percent raise for more than 3,300 state law officers.
Couch said other municipal and county leaders across the state have expressed concern that the pay increase will take away from their existing staffs. But the sheriff said he believes this has always been the case.
“People move around and go to agency to agency,” he said. “I think it benefits us all in the long run, and we get better qualified candidates that way.”
Hall County set aside $1.9 million last year in raises and bonuses for workers, with an increase between $2,500 and $3,500 per year for certain positions in the Sheriff’s Office.
Georgia State Patrol Post 6 Commander Anthony Coleman said the department is recruiting for the 100th and 101st trooper schools.
“If a trooper doesn’t work a crash, then a county deputy must do it, which means that deputy is not available to answer 911 calls,” Couch wrote in his letter.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Mike Burgamy said the agency hasn’t had a hiring cycle in about four years.
“We’ve been running short for quite some time,” Burgamy said, saying there are vacancies all over.
The same can be said for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, with a staff that has contracted over the past several years.
“The governor’s proposal will go a long way in helping us attract qualified candidates, in a time where law enforcement is more scrutinized than it has ever been and more difficult than it has ever been,” Region 8 Special Agent in Charge Kim Williams.