Summerville town council approves pay raise for police officers

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The Summerville town council voted to raise the salary of police officers.

A quarter of the Summerville officers left the force in 2017, a big reason is because of the lack of pay. Starting out, Summerville Police officers get paid the least of other major cities in the Lowcountry.

"The problem is if you have agencies that can pay a couple more thousand dollars to a young officer, and maybe give them a new car or something, these officers will be drawn to that," said Capt. Douglas Wright with the Summerville Police Department.

After the new officers are done with the twelve weeks of training at the academy, and another six week of training, they become certified and can make more money.

More money is why some officers leave.

"They've been employed almost a year and by the time that happens we have other people who are enchanted by other agencies that have small perks like a couple more thousand here or there so they'll go to those agencies and work," Wright said.

Summerville Town Councilman Aaron Brown said the town has known it's not paying their officers a lot of money.

"Ever since I've been on the Council we've been priding ourselves in Summerville with the fact that people work for us on the cheap," said Brown.

"When you see other agencies across the Lowcountry and the state that are surpassing us with salaries where we can easily come in and make that difference and pay that difference, it can be really disheartening at times," said Wright.

The Summerville officers and firefighters that are leaving the city do more harm than causing stress on a department, it is also costing the town millions of dollars.

That money stemming from the training these men and women receive, only to then leave the department that paid for the training to pursue better opportunities elsewhere.

"We've got 25 percent turnover in both departments which equates to about a million dollars each department per year, that's 20% of their budget. Not combined budget, but each. That's two million dollars we're spending on training every year," said Summerville Mayor Wiley Johnson.

Wright said despite their force having officers leaving, it's also a trend that's happening all across the Lowcountry for a variety of different reasons.

"Man power shortages are obviously always an issue. It's like a revolving door and it's not just the Summerville Police Department it's law enforcement throughout the Lowcountry and the state," said Wright.

Wright said the reason behind it is the ridicule law enforcement as a whole has received.

"Obviously law enforcement right now is facing some pretty challenging times. One of the biggest challenges we're facing is obviously ridicule from the public in many cases and it's made it very difficult to recruit good people into our profession," said Wright.

In 2017, North Charleston Police Department had 39 officers leave its force of 331 officers including retirees, according to officials with the department.

For the same year, Charleston had 37 officers leave, including its retirees, according to CPD officials.

Summerville had 26 officers leave in 2017.

The department started that year with 105, according to Wright.

Hanahan Police Department had eight officers leave in 2017 and started the year with 32 officers, according to Hanahan Deputy Chief Fowler.

Goose Creek officials said they started the year with the budget allocated 68 officers, 16 of which left the department in 2017.

Moncks Corner Police Chief Ollic said no officers left the city's force of 32 officers in 2017.

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