Some Georgia sheriffs have fumed for months that a 20 percent raise for state law enforcement officers bypassed local deputies. But few have done it quite as bluntly as Sheriff Butch Reece of Jones County.
The sheriff was among hundreds of law enforcement officials at the Capitol this week for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. And the caption above his picture of stone-faced deputies on the statehouse steps minced no words.
“I don’t think that King Nathan and his merry band had much love in his heart for us locals,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “He was however reminded that the Gold Dome is still owned by ‘We The People!’”
Reece didn’t return an email seeking further comment, but he’s standing with another sheriff – Howard Sills of Putnam County – who has been among the loudest advocates demanding the state to pony up more cash for local law enforcement officers.
Last year, Deal engineered the 20 percent pay hike for most state law enforcement officers, but he and others say deputies should lobby their counties, not the state, for higher pay. Several legislators have sought to boost deputy pay, but their measures have failed to gain traction.
The starting pay for Georgia State Patrol officers rose to $46,422 with the pay hike, which was included in the midyear spending plan Deal signed into law. Sheriffs contend it’s hard to compete for top talent when, according to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, the average starting salary for a deputy doesn’t reach $30,000.
Deal said sheriff’s pay should be decided by county commissions, adding that shifting salary hikes to the state would also give Georgia the “control mechanism” over local deputies.
“I don’t think that sheriffs are advocating that the state take over the control of local deputies,” he said.
“I’ve done my job as the chief of the law enforcement of the state of Georgia,” he added. “We’ve done our part, the 20 percent pay raise, and with the additional training we’ve made available for our people as well as sheriff’s offices and local police departments.”