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Virginia Sheriffs’ Association
The Voice of Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

Bluefield Daily Telegraph editorial

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is urging lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly to allocate funding for a long-overdue pay increase for deputies. Members of the association argue that many deputies qualify for food stamps because of the current low salaries.

They also correctly note that the current low salary scale makes it difficult to recruit and retain officers, particularly here in the deep Southwest Virginia counties.

According to Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt, a deputy with a couple of children would be eligible for food stamps based on the current salary structure in the region. He says the starting salary in the area for a deputy is just over $31,000. As a local comparison with other professionals, the starting salary for a teacher in Tazewell County with up to four years experience is $36,365 for the current school year.

Deputies are paid with state funds. The Virginia Compensation Board funds constitutional offices like sheriff’s departments, commonwealth’s attorneys and courts.

“But some counties give supplements,” Hieatt said last week. “But no supplements are given in Tazewell County or I don’t think the other counties around here. What we get is what the state provides. What counties will do if they have the money is a pay raise. If the money is not there we are counting on the state (for pay raises).”

Hieatt said Tazewell County has about 60 deputies and the training standards for the officers are the same as for the Virginia State Police.

“When you look at the things deputies have to do, and the things that have gotten so dangerous, you are asking them to put on a badge and carry a gun and risk their life,” Hieatt said. “And we don’t even have money for a pay increase.”

Hieatt, and members of the Virginia Sheriffs Association, make a valid point. Area lawmakers should take note.

We realize that times are tough, and that local and state budgets are stretched thin, but these brave men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth are more than deserving of a pay increase. Lawmakers should be actively searching for revenue sources to help fund a long-overdue salary increase for them.

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