ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Some officers and deputies are resigning from both the Dougherty County Police Department and the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office because of stiff budget cuts.
Officials worry many more will leave because their take-home pay will be cut because of higher insurance premiums and expected furlough days.
One officer has already officially resigned from the Dougherty County Police, and another has let the Chief know he is planning to turn in his notice soon. The Sheriff also got his first official resignation Monday morning, employees saying the furloughs and insurance rate hikes were too much. They will go elsewhere for more money.
The Dougherty County Police department has already lost one of their 46 sworn officers, and Chief Don Cheek said another has let him know he is close to resigning.
Cheek said "We've had people that say they just can not afford to take that type of cut in pay and benefits."
Most employees will see an insurance increase of around 200 dollars a month. If the county does furlough employees 12 days, that is almost a five percent pay cut.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul got his first official notice from one of his deputies Monday morning.
Sproul said "It's not the end of it. We're hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel, to get here sooner. But we know we could go through some more hardships such as this case."
Both Cheek and Sproul say they expect many of their younger officers to go to surrounding agencies, that pay better.
Sproul said "They are in their 20's or early 30's, trying to support a family and these are very difficult times on them as well as everybody else."
The Chief and Sheriff say it will cost them a lot to train and recruit new officers, some will need nine months before they are on the streets.
Cheek said "There are going to be some issues with service delivery. Response times, if we have to take officers off the street, that is obviously going to add to the response time."
Both the Chief and Sheriff say they have cut other costs like maintenance and equipment to the bare minimum, and that could be an issue in coming years. But right now they are worried about retaining their officers, with so many other law enforcement agencies paying better.
I have talked to several Dougherty County law enforcement officers, and most say they are already working two or three part time jobs. I'm told some Dougherty County Police are already receiving public assistance like food stamps, to raise their family.
So taking what amounts to about a $250 month pay and benefit cut is forcing many to leave for more money.
Both the Sheriff and Chief are trying to remind their officers and deputies that the furlough days have not been approved yet, but they say morale is definitely hurting already.