Low pay scale causes police shortage - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Low pay scale causes police shortage

January 30, 2006

Valdosta - State troopers work around the clock patrolling our highways, but they need more help. "Our manpower has decreased while the work to be done has increased," said Trooper Christopher Gay.

Ten years ago, the Valdsota Post was fully staffed with 24 officers, but today, they only have 18.  Its the same story at posts all over the state and troopers say there's only one thing to blame. "Potential candidates simply do not apply because of the starting salary," said Gay.

Troopers in Georgia have one of the lowest starting salaries in the country, and the gap grows even wider for those with experience. For example, a 15 year veteran of the GSP has an average salary of $36,000, that's about $14,000 less than an experienced trooper in North Carolina. "There is probably not one of the 48 posts in Georgia where they are at full power," said Gay.

But its not just state troopers who are feeling the pinch, many police departments and sheriff's offices are also seeing a shortage because of the low pay scale. "If I sent my recruitment team to a job fair where there's agencies from other states coming in, I don't think we'd stand a chance," said Capt. Brian Childress of the Valdosta Police Department.

The shortage was so serious at the Valdosta Police Department that at one point last year, they had 18 openings. But that all changed with city council approved an increase in the officers' starting salaries. "Then applications just started flying in," said Childress.

A first year officer that started at $25,000 last year is now starting at $30,000. "Now I'm getting applicants and I'm getting better qualified applicants coming in here," said Childress.

That increase made the deparment more competative with others in Georgia, but they're still losing out to those in other states. And unfortunately, public safety is left to suffer.

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