Commissioners approve new policy on training, pay for Polk sheriff’s officers

Published 9:35 am Monday, July 18, 2011

Polk commissioners approved a new policy on Monday, July 11 offering raises to some sheriff’s officers who complete Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET).
The controversial policy was approved by a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Ray Gasperson, Renée McDermott and Cindy Walker voting in favor of it and commissioners Ted Owens and Tom Pack voting against it.
The issue began earlier this year when Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill requested commissioners to include raises for the detention officers, a secretary and an animal control officer in the budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1.
Gasperson, McDermott and Walker said they could not give raises to some employees and not others and approved a budget with no salary increases.
Commissioners Owens and Pack said the county’s pay system was not fair, especially considering detention officers’ job duties.
Gasperson, McDermott and Walker later proposed the new policy, which for some employees would mean a 25-percent increase in pay, including benefits.
Owens and Pack argued the take-home pay increase would be closer to $2,000 per year. They also said it will be almost impossible for detention officers, who work 12-hour shifts, to complete the training, which requires four hours per night, plus some Saturdays.
Gasperson, McDermott and Walker all said that although working full-time and going to school is not easy, many people do it to better themselves.
“People work full time and obtain degrees,” said McDermott. “I worked full time while obtaining my master’s. Many, many people work full time and go to school.”
The training, if done part-time, takes approximately eight months to complete.
“The difficulty is for three years we haven’t given any money to anybody,” Walker said. “How do I tell the other 140 people why some folks get and some don’t? It seems like a wonderful way to advance yourself and receive more income.”
The training would not be required, but employees who complete the BLET certification would be increased to pay grade  20 from as low as pay grade 16 (see charts below for pay analysis).
Hill said he didn’t mean to cause an uproar when he asked for the raises, he was simply standing up for his employees, whom he thinks deserves more.
According to Hill, three years ago, under the former sheriff, (Chris Abril) commissioners unanimously approved raises for a group of officers in the middle of a year.  Giving those raises made some officers underpaid, Hill said.
Owens and Pack were on the board that approved Abril’s requested increases, along with former commissioners Harry Denton, Tommy Melton and Warren Watson.
Pack said last week that part of his problem with the BLET policy is that if detention officers receive BLET training, they would be paid the same as deputies, but would have more training than deputies. For their jobs, detention officers are also required to take 160 hours of training per year. Pack asked if commissioners are now going to require deputies to receive the detention officer training.
Hill said he appreciates all commissioners trying to help out, but said the process has been aggravating. He said it has put departments against each other.
Hill also said he doesn’t think the sheriff’s office secretary needs BLET certification since she performs the same duties as a dispatcher.
“Are you going to ask all the secretaries at the schools to be a certified teacher [so they can be] a secretary?” Hill asked.
Hill’s original salary increase request would have cost the county $22,944, including FICA and retirement increases for eight detention officers, one secretary and the animal control officer.
If all 10 employees were to receive BLET training, which is not likely, the cost to the county under the new policy would be $75,694, including FICA and retirement benefits.
Commissioners who approved the policy said they want the county to work with the sheriff to cover shifts for any employee who is getting the training. The county already has a policy to give its employees $1,000 per year for education. BLET tuition is free for persons sponsored by a sheriff, but that doesn’t include costs of books or other materials.

Current salaries of Polk County jail officers, animal control, secretary

Classification    Grade    Salary     Fica     Retirement    Law 401k    Insurance     Total
Detention officer    16    $ 24,246     $1,855    $1,704    $0    $6,326    $34,132
Detention sergeant    18    $ 26,730     $2,045    $1,879    $0    $6,326    $36,980
Detention officer    16    $ 25,474     $1,949    $1,791    $0    $6,326    $35,540
Detention officer    16    $ 24,246     $1,855    $1,704    $0    $6,326    $34,132
Detention officer    16    $ 24,246     $1,855    $1,704    $0    $6,326    $34,132
Detention officer    16    $ 36,894     $2,822    $2,594    $0    $6,326    $48,636
Detention officer    16    $ 25,474     $1,949    $1,791    $0    $6,326    $35,540
Detention sergeant    18    $ 32,568     $2,491    $2,290    $0    $6,326    $43,675
$219,878    $16,821    $15,457    $0    $50,611    $302,767
Animal control officer    18    $26,730    $2,045    $1,879    $0    $6,326    $36,980
Sheriff secretary    16    $24,246     $1,855    $1,707    $0    $6,326    $34,134

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Current salaries of Polk County jail officers, animal control, secretary

Classification    Grade    Salary      Fica     Retirement    Law 401k    Insurance     Total
Detention officer    20    $29,470     $2,254    $2,075    $1,474    $6,326    $41,599
Detention sergeant    21    $30,945     $2,367    $2,179    $1,547    $6,326    $43,364
Detention officer    20    $30,962     $2,369    $2,180    $1,548    $6,326    $43,385
Detention officer    20    $29,470     $2,254    $2,075    $1,474    $6,326    $41,599
Detention officer    20    $29,470     $2,254    $2,075    $1,474    $6,326    $41,599
Detention officer    20    $44,842     $3,430    $3,157    $2,242    $6,326    $59,998
Detention officer    20    $30,962     $2,369    $2,180    $1,548    $6,326    $43,385
Detention sergeant    21    $37,704     $2,884    $2,654    $1,885    $6,326    $51,454
$263,825    $20,183    $18,573    $13,191    $50,611    $366,383
Animal control officer    20    $29,470     $2,254    $2,075    $1,474    $6,326    $41,599
Sheriff secretary    20    $29,470     $2,254    $2,075    $1,474    $6,326    $41,599