PAY INCREASE: Gov. McMaster proposes raises for state law enforcement officers
Do state law enforcement officers get paid enough?
That’s the question Governor Henry McMaster asked the Department of Administration to find out during a six-week study.
“All of law enforcement is a valued, needed and respected career move,” said Rep. Phillip Lowe from Florence.
A state study found that the starting pay of $40,000 for state entry level law enforcement officers is too low.
“We all have to acknowledge that law enforcement and correctional officer positions come with risks and hazards that other law enforcement professions just don’t have,” said Marsha Adams, director of South Carolina Department of Administration.
The low salaries are part of causing what Adams called a staffing crisis.
“We have more officers leaving employment before retirement,” Adams said. “Over 16 percent of law enforcement officers in this state are currently retirement eligible or will be in the next five years.”
Some state law enforcement officers are leaving for private sector jobs or positions with local law enforcement agencies. This is something SLED director Mark Keel has seen this first hand.
“Recruiting and retaining officers is increasingly difficult,” the SLED director said.
According to the Department of State Human Resources, as of January there were 444 law enforcement vacancies and applications were down more than 25 percent. The governor hopes these pay increases can help fill some of those job openings.
“We extensively and comprehensively measured the pay of our officers and found in many cases that it was inadequate,” McMaster said.
The new proposed starting salary for Class One law enforcement officers is $43,500. Other state agencies are also seeing officer pay increases such as SLED and the Department of Natural Resources.
“I can proudly say that we’re leading Georgia and North Carolina in the pay increases in our starting salaries,” Rep. Lowe said.
However, the representative says that the number of people leaving law enforcement is more than just about pay.
“I think we also have to address the morale issue to resolve this,” Lowe said. “It takes every one of us to help with that.”
He hopes public perception of law enforcement officers improves but says that police are held in high regard in the Palmetto State.
“If you’re in a state where they don’t respect you, come to South Carolina,” the representative said. “We have a job for you.”