The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is requesting that the General Assembly and governor address the salary disparity that exists in sheriffs’ offices across the Commonwealth, according to a news release from the association.
“This year has been one of the deadliest years ever for law enforcement officers; 120 officers have lost their lives in the line of duty through Nov. 10,” said Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan, president of the state association, in an email to newspapers last week. “It is time our legislators and our localities step up to make this disparity in pay a priority.”
According to the release, a starting deputy sheriff with a spouse and two children qualifies for food stamps in localities that do not supplement local sheriffs’ salaries. The starting annual salary of a deputy sheriff is $31,009, or $2,584 per month. The minimum qualifying salary for federal assistance is $2,628, if the deputy is married and has two dependent children.
“This is shameful and has evolved because the General Assembly approved a budget with pay raises that were eliminated by a revenue trigger,” the news release said. With state revenue not meeting the amount budgeted this year, planned raises for deputies, teachers and other state employees were cancelled.
“During the prior year, all other state-funded law enforcement officers received a 3 percent across-the-board raise, compression raises and special raises, depending on what state law enforcement agency is involved,” the release said.
The turnover of first-year deputy sheriffs for all localities (including the localities that supplement salaries) is 21.3 percent, according to Virginia’s State Compensation Board. This leaves many sheriffs’ offices as the de facto training agency for other law enforcement agencies, both local and state. “As soon as deputies are hired and trained, they begin the search for a better-paid law enforcement profession,” the release said.
The release shared these additional facts about sheriffs’ offices in Virginia:
- Sheriffs’ offices are the primary law enforcement agencies in 86 counties, making over 63,000 arrests annually and answering nearly 2 million calls for service;
- Sheriffs are absorbing additional responsibilities each year with the overwhelming responsibility of mental health transports;
- Sheriffs serve more than 3 million civil papers to keep the court system moving and provide security to keep Virginia’s courts, judges and users of the judicial system safe;
- Sheriffs serve as the keepers of all local jails, and many serve as policymakers on regional jail boards and authorities;
- Sheriffs are addressing the mental health crisis currently in local jails, maintaining the safest environment possible for both staff and local jail inmates.
“The job of a deputy isn’t getting any easier, but the recognition by those responsible for providing adequate compensation leaves much to be desired,” the news release said. “The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association has placed deputy and staff compensation as its top priority to address the current salary discrepancy that exists in the Commonwealth,” the release said.