Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

August 14, 2013

Tanner: In support of our deputies

Dear Citizens,

I would like to take the opportunity as your Sheriff to explain my recent budget request for a 10 percent pay increase for the officers of the N.C.S.O. We are now facing a critical issue with staffing within our agency. We currently have 15 vacancies that come from every division throughout the department and within the last few weeks had reached as high as 18. This equated to a 15 percent agency wide shortage. As of today, we have three patrol positions available. These manpower shortages directly impact our community from the dispatchers who answer your calls for help, to the deputies who respond for assistance, to the detention officers who maintain and staff our correctional facility.

As you are aware, these openings are for officers and they require training and state certifications. Unlike many offices throughout government, we are NOT able to use a temporary service to fill any vacancies within the agency when there are staffing shortages. The hiring process requires background investigation, polygraph, psychological, physical and drug screening. These tests cost approximately $325 per person if you pass the initial assessment and are moved forward for additional testing. We are currently experiencing a rate of one person being hired out of every four candidates submitted for testing which cost on average about $1,300 per hire. That expense doesn’t reflect the added cost of a $200 tuition fee to attend a mandatory Jail Academy for licensing and the cost of uniforms.

When a patrol deputy resigns we are faced with a different situation. The licensed peace officers are also required to obtain 40 hours of continuing education every two years or their license will be suspended through the state and they cannot work. Any new patrol deputy is required to already possess a State Peace Officers License and they must go through a mandatory departmental Field Training Program that is up to 16 weeks in duration. This means two deputies per car assigned to a district instead of having two separate deputies assigned to two separate districts which in turn causes decreased patrol coverage with longer response times to your calls. The result equates to a 50 percent decline in their amount of coverage while they complete the FTO program. The State of Texas requires one officer per 48 inmates to remain in compliance in the jail operations. The sheriff’s office is a 24 hour a day/7 day a week operation. That includes nights, weekends and holidays.  Without the required staffing in the jail, we may possibly be faced with new restrictions on what type of offenders we may be able to house in county versus those we may have to pay to send out of county.  A new law effective Sept. 1, 2013, mandates that ALL dispatchers will now be required to obtain a State License.  

As I said during my campaign, the Sheriff’s Office DOES NOT belong to the Sheriff it belongs to the citizens of the county and I am the manager for the Sheriff’s Office. I have always believed in keeping the citizens aware of the operations of this department. I continue to look at ways to be cost effective and conservative in my approach while maintaining an effective agency. I have reviewed the cost of hiring new officers along with the cost of training. These officers, often leave this agency for a better paying job within the county. I also factored in the excessive amount of overtime costs trying to maintain MINIMUM staffing to run the agency. I believe that it is a much more viable option to raise the officer’s salaries to a more competitive salary and maintain OUR WELL TRAINED AND QUALIFIED OFFICERS. This would definitely reduce the costs of hiring and training while also improving employee morale and production. Employees are our greatest asset and our citizen’s safety is our greatest concern.

During my request before the Navarro County Commissioners Court, I presented the case for a 10 percent raise in the salaries being paid to our department’s law enforcement in an attempt to stop losing trained, qualified senior officers to other agencies and be able to attract new recruits to fill the vacancies we currently have. These salary comparisons are not meant to imply that any person or agency is being overpaid. This is simply a comparison of other courthouse and agency salaries in our area.

Approximate Examples of base salaries within Navarro County:

Administrative Assistant/Court Coordinator - $37,678

District Attorney Investigator - $42,897    

Patrol Deputy - $36,368                             

Detention Officer - $31,188                          

CPD Patrol Officer - $41,338

NCSO Patrol Sgt. - $37,770

CPD Patrol Sgt. - $55,233

NCSO Patrol Captain - $40,454     

CPD Patrol Captain - $60,839        

As you can see, even with a 10 percent pay increase for our officers, we would still not equal the base salary of others listed in the example.

The issue for our Department is not to become the highest paid agency in the area but to simply keep the officers that we have from being recruited away by other agencies and have a competitive pay scale to recruit new officers.

We have lost many officers to CPD, Ennis PD, Texas DPS, Navarro College Police and Corsicana ISD just to name a few. I did not refer to all the other named agencies salary bases but I do have the numbers available upon request.

Another important factor in this equation is the cost of the dependent insurance for a family. It has increased every year within the past five years beginning at $719.48 per month to $1,100.58 per month this is a $ 381 a month increase. This year the rate is estimated to increase another $107 a month to a total for dependent family insurance of $1,207 per month. A detention officer for example, with a dependent family insurance coverage would see a pay increase with a 4 percent raise of about $1,247 per year and an annual insurance increase of $1,284 per year, equaling an annual LOSS in salary of $37 a year.         

The State of Texas recently gave a 12 percent raise to law enforcement, correctional officers and judicial officers even though the State also faces budget constraints.

As you are very aware, we have chosen a dangerous profession. On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty every 57 hours. We are all aware of the many tragedies that have and continue to occur within our State and United States. School and workplace shootings along with random acts of violence are becoming more and more common. There are increased acts of violence within our own community. Bank Robberies, shootings, homicides, and aggravated assaults are becoming more common right here at home. We are all familiar with the recent tragedy in Kaufman County, a Hood County deputy being ambushed and killed as well as the Killeen Police Tactical Officer that was killed trying to arrest an armed suspect. These are facts. We must have the most trained, experienced and qualified officers available to combat the challenges we face in keeping our citizens safe.           

Although a hiring incentive is a welcome proactive thought, it will not resolve the issue of our agency being a training ground for other agencies. I feel it will send the wrong message to the trained and tenured officers within the agency who will receive $1,000 less annually than a new recruit.       

We want to continue to provide law enforcement services to our community at the highest level. We cannot lower our standards of professionalism, safety and integrity which would cause our citizens to suffer the consequences.

We appreciate ANY raise afforded to our officers, but we must obtain a competitive pay scale to hire and maintain well trained and qualified officers to support the citizens of Navarro County.   

Sincerely,

Sheriff Elmer Tanner

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