Police pay and crime rates are often topics of conversation, and they have been so often so far this year in Lexington County.
Police pay and crime rates are often topics of conversation, and they have been so often so far this year in Lexington County.
Multiple local law enforcement agencies have seen the powers that be increase starting pay for officers. One of them is the Town of Irmo, which took the step as its citizens and government continue to seek solutions to curtail crime crossing the county line from the Harbison Gardens apartment complex in Columbia.
To get a better lay of the land when it comes to crime rates and police pay in Lexington County, the Chronicle reached out to all law enforcement agencies to find out how much they pay, when they last increased the amount, how they’re doing when it comes to retaining officers, and how the crime rates in their jurisdictions have changed in the past few years (pulling from the information provided in annual crime reports provided by the state Law Enforcement Division).
Overall, the rate of index crimes – murder, aggravated assault, arson, breaking and entering, robbery, larceny, sexual battery, and motor vehicle theft – in the county decreased by 2.07% between 2017 and 2021. During the same time period, the county’s population increased by 1.2%, going from 290,511 to 293, 991.
Like Lexington County, the state has continued to grow, with its population increasing 3.25% from 5,027,102 in 2017 to 5,190,705 in 2021. Despite the increase in population, the state’s total index crimes decreased by 11.94% during that time.
Indeed and Zip Recruiter list the average pay for police officers in the state as $44,404 and $40,952, respectively, with Indeed noting that pay in the state is 26% below the national average.
Zip Recruiter rates the state No. 44 for police officer salaries. One municipality in the county, the City of Cayce, ranks in the Top 10 in the state for police pay according to the site, coming in at No. 4.
The Chronicle reached out to the Town of Springdale and did not receive any of the requested information regarding its police department. The City of West Columbia said it couldn’t provide all of the information requested.
Starting pay: $43,847-$50,444 (for detention and patrol deputies.)
Last pay raise: July 2022
Next raise: According to Sheriff Jay Koon, Lexington County Administrator, Lynn Sturkie plans to present a pay increase package in this year’s budget process for all employees.
Number of officers: 336 (not including reserve deputies)
Recruiting and retention: Koon told the Chronicle that recruiting is accomplished through a holistic approach, with the department's recruiter and other personnel attending career fairs at colleges/universities, high schools, military installations, SC Works events and other hiring events throughout South Carolina and adjacent states. He added that they use online platforms and technologies to post available positions and extend their recruiting beyond the state.
Koon shared that both recruitment and retention have been challenging.
“Some of it can be tied to economics; while some can be tied to the anti-law enforcement sentiment that’s taken hold in our country over recent years,” he said.
The sheriff added that the department makes a great effort to monitor and evaluate the hiring environment, crafting its recruitment and retention strategies carefully, identifying the best available candidates and remaining competitive in the market.
The department is not responsible for the entirety of the county.
Its jurisdiction covers the portions of the county not under the jurisdiction of a municipality, and the department also helps departments whose jurisdiction does not fall under a 24/7 surveillance and is responsible for the Gilbert and Summit municipalities as they do not have their own law enforcement.
Starting pay: $44,742 (1.5% additional pay for an associate or bachelor degree, 3% additional pay for being bilingual or having prior certified law enforcement experience)
Last pay raise: 2% cost of living adjustment in July 2022
Next pay raise: Chief Terrence Green shared that Lexington Town Council will consider compensation modifications when reviewing next year's budget.
Number of officers: When all positions are full, there are 65 officers, three administrative staff, and two reserve police officers who are certified but non-paid.
Recruitment and retention: Green shared that the department is very proactive with their recruitment and will attend career and recruitment fairs, use social media to announce openings, and offer high school and college internships.
“We have a lot to offer someone who joins our department as a mid-size but growing agency. The Town of Lexington is a great place to work, our employees are well taken care of with competitive pay and benefits.” Green said “We invest a lot in our officers with advanced training and career development. We are looking for those interested in law enforcement and service not as a job but as a career.”
Green touched on how both recruitment and retention has been difficult over the last several years, with some officers leaving the department for state and federal positions. The Chief told the Chronicle that the department continues to be focused on hiring, training, and training committed law enforcement professionals who share the mission statement of “Providing Exceptional Police Service While Building a Partnership in the Community We Serve”.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 15% decrease in total index crimes going from 721 to 610. The population of the town increased 31.89% from 17,870 residents to 23,568 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Pay rate: Starting at $42,409 for non-certified patrol officer and $44,148 for certified patrol officer 2 (both include budgeted merit and cost of living increases)
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the city saw a 12.33% decrease in index crimes going from 1,330 to 1,166. The population of the city increased from 14,416 to 17,416 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Pay rate: $39,951-$66,191 (for patrol officers)
Last pay raise: Most recent fiscal year had a cost of living raise and a new pay structure that provides raises.
Next pay raise: Ashley Hunter, public information officer for the city, shared that the department consistently reviews the best practices, grant funding, training opportunities, and other ways to provide the most competitive opportunities for current and potential employees.
Number of officers: 73 team members in the department
Recruitment and retention: Hunter told the Chronicle the department attends career fairs, partners with military separation services, and works to maintain the highest level of professionalism and accountability.
“Our reputation is our greatest recruitment tool, and it shows our commitment to honor and excellence.” Hunter said.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the city saw a 7.2% decrease in index crimes going from 869 to 806. The population of the city increased 10% from 12,528 to 13,781 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Starting pay: $44,000- $48,000
Last pay raise: 2023
Next pay raise: Officers receive annual cost of living raises
Number of officers: 26 officers (looking to fill three vacancies)
Recruitment and retention: John Hendricks, assistant chief of police, shared that the department generally utilizes online advertisements and social media as a means of recruitment.
Hendricks added that the department has not struggled as some agencies have in terms of retention.
“Our officers know their worth to this agency, and we constantly strive to make sure that they know that they are valued,” he said. “Irmo PD has always had the good fortune of being known as a great law enforcement agency to work for.”
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 17.57% decrease in index crimes going from 512 to 422 The population of the town increased from 11,097 to 11,569 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Starting pay: Just under $36,000
Last pay raise: Police Chief Darren Amick was unsure when the last raise occurred, but shared that everyone received a cost of living increase.
Next pay raise: Amick told the Chronicle he is working on setting up a proposal for a raise.
Number of officers: 24
Recruitment and retention: Amick shared that the department is looking at getting a recruitment flier put together for the department and stated that it is looking at getting into the world of social media to help recruit officers.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 29.61% decrease in index crimes going from 314 to 221. The population of the town decreased from 5,362 residents to 5,270 between 2010 to 2020, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Starting pay: Roughly $41,000 for certified officers
Last pay raise: 2023
Number of officers: Seven full-time officers three non-paid reserves
Recruitment and retention: Chief Josh Shumpert shared that the department typically recruits through word of mouth or the state Municipal Association.
“We have had pretty good success with officers being here, being a small department.” Shumpert said “We don't have a lot of openings all the time, but when somebody comes here, they usually stay here for a while because the atmosphere here”
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2020 (there were no statistics reported for 2021), the department saw a 55.1% decrease in index crimes, going from 69 to 31. The population of the town increased from 2,306 residents to 2,377 between 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Starting pay: $40,000-$42,000
Last pay raise: 2023 (3% raise took in effect this March)
Number of officers: Four full-time
Recruitment and retention: Chief Frankie Neeley shared that the department doesn’t do much recruiting but works to retain officers by offering a flexible schedule. Neeley told the Chronicle that he believes their base pay being more than other jurisdictions their size benefits them.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2020 (there were no statistics reported for 2021), the department saw a 35.48% decrease in total index crimes going from 31 to 20. As of 2020, the town had 2,167 residents, the Chronicle was unable to confirm the increase or decrease in residents from 2010 due to lack of data.
Starting pay: $40,000 and $45,000 for uncertified and certified, respectfully.
Last pay raise: Within the last two years
Next pay raise: Chief Thomas Griffin shared that the department has been conducting pay studies to see what improvements can be made when it comes to salaries within the department. These studies are in response to recent pay changes at agencies throughout the Midlands area.
Number of officers: 14 (eight full-time sworn in officers and six patrol officers of various ranks)
Recruitment and retention: Griffin shared that retention has not been a problem lately.
“I believe this is due to the small size of our department, which creates a more family-style atmosphere,” he said. “Being only eight officers, it is readily apparent that we rely on one another on a day-to-day basis.”
Griffin added that they are in constant communication with one another and this allows all officers to have a voice.
The chief told the Chronicle that recruitment can be difficult due to the number of agencies hiring, but he said that due to their competitive salary and the small-town atmosphere that he believes Chapin is a desirable place to work.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 44.7% increase in total index crimes going from 38 to 55. The population of the town increased 25.19% going from 1,445 to 1,809 between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Starting pay: $38,000- $40,000
Last pay raise: Around 2020 ($3,000 increase to starting pay)
Next pay raise: Typically a 3%-5% cost of living increase each year.
Number of officers: Seven (four full-time officers, two part-time, and one reserve)
Recruitment and retention: According to Chief Stephen Watkins, the best thing to help assist with retention is to offer a good working environment, the best equipment available, and to have an open-door policy to address issues that arise.
“We are obviously a smaller department but work as a unit in all aspects of our job. Family comes first is what the mayor and myself live by,” Watkins said. “For example, a child's baseball game, event at school, etc. – there are no issues when feasible for that officer to attend, I personally will cover some hours of a shift to make it happen, which keeps a good mental working environment.”
Watkins added that it is difficult to compete against larger agencies with substantial salary increases, telling the Chronicle this is the main reason they try to take care of their employees.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 89.74% increase in total index crimes going from 39 to 74. The population of the town decreased 2.24% going from 1,645 residents to 1,608 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Starting pay: $33,000-$39,000
Last pay raise: 2022
Next pay raise: Chief Earl Williams said they are looking at a raise in the future.
Number of officers: Five (three full-time and two reserve).
Recruitment and retention: Williams told the Chronicle that recruitment is typically done through word of mouth and social media, adding that they retain their employees by treating them with respect, training classes, overtime opportunities, and a take-home vehicle.
As to how much being able to offer these things is a difficulty for the department, the chief said both the financial end of providing the incentives and the limited number of people wanting to enter law enforcement pose challenges.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021,, the department saw a 23.40% decrease in total index crimes going from 47 to 36. The population of the town decreased 12.69% from 827 residents to 722 between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
Starting pay: $20 an hour (equaling $41,600 a year)
Last pay raise: January 2023
Next pay raise: Chief Rebolji shared that he does not see another raise in the near future since they just implemented one, but employees will continue to see the usual raises for performance.
Number of officers: Four full-time officers, with two more being hired in July
Recruitment and retention: Rebolji told the Chronicle that recruitment is typically handled through word of mouth and advertisement on social media, adding that they haven’t had a problem recruiting this way.
The chief added that in 2021 they had two officers leave for higher pay at other agencies, telling the Chronicle that no more officers have left since then.
Crime and population: Between 2017 and 2021, the department saw a 75% increase in total index crimes going from 24 to 42. The population of the town decreased 6.38% from 674 residents to 631 between 2010 and 2020, per U.S. Census data.
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