Salaries of of local law enforcement is a local, not state, decision


It has often been said that the government which is the closest to the people governs best, but the ability to make decisions at the local level seems to be continually undermined by mandates, usually unfunded, from the state and federal governments. A recent example is Senate Bill 254, introduced last week in the Georgia General Assembly. It proposes to establish a statewide minimum salary for sheriff’s deputies at the starting pay of a Georgia State Patrol officer.

Deputies are employees of the sheriff. They are paid 100 percent from local county taxes and fees. The sheriff, who is accountable to county voters working in concert with county commissioners - also held to account by voters - should determine the appropriate compensation for these officers. The state legislature, which does not have any financial obligation for these employees, should not intervene in this relationship.

Many people agree that law enforcement officers are not paid enough for putting their life on the line to protect their community. It is even debatable if there is any amount of money worth the risk. But it is local elected officials, representing their constituents, who should decide on an appropriate balance between the level of service desired and the amount of taxes the community is willing to pay. In the private sector, the free market dictates what a business will have to pay to get a qualified employee. Why would we not expect the free market to determine what a local government needs to pay to get a qualified employee?

The economy in each community is different and an equally qualified person may be willing to work for a different salary depending upon where the job is located. Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county with an estimated 1,010,000 residents, is far different than the state’s least populous Taliaferro County with a population of just 1,700. Yet, the state would impose the same minimum salary in each county.

The issue comes down to basic supply and demand, which cannot work if a state-imposed mandate supersedes basic economic factors. If there are not enough qualified job applicants for an open position, or if they refuse to work for the salary offered, then the compensation must increase in order to fill the position. Equally important, if sheriffs cannot retain the best and brightest employees, then they need to re-evaluate the way they compensate for performance.

Other than constitutionally elected positions, current state law does not mandate minimum salaries for local employees. To change this for local law enforcement would be unprecedented and undermine one of the key foundations of local control. If the legislature believes a public service should be provided and paid for uniformly across the entire state, then shouldn’t the state take over the service rather than dictate service standards to the local governments?

Clint Mueller is the legislative director for ACCG, Georgia’s county association, www.accg.org.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

READERS WRITE: APR. 25

Medical oversight of cannabis oil would help patients In response to a doctor’s comments on the Georgia CBD Oil Registry (“Medical marijuana poses unregulated risk to state’s kids,” Readers Write, April 10), I can appreciate his concerns about patient safety. I would argue, however, that the law is a much-needed step in the...
Opinion: What if Trump really did ‘shoot someone on 5th Avenue?”

By JESS KIDDEN WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and conservative leaders rallied around President Trump Friday, attempting to minimize political damage after Trump shot down a man in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City. “I’m not going to put myself in the position of having to respond to every presidential shooting,&rdquo...
Opinion: Educational fraud continues

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation’s Report Card, was released. It’s not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just...
READERS WRITE: APR. 24

Facebook users’ privacy expectations are naive and disingenuous The object of Facebook is to connect members to their “friends,” to provide a format to share and expose the most intimate details of their lives. Facebook members post their photos and videos. They lament about romances. They post recipes and tout products they use and...
Opinion: Paul Ryan is the ultimate party man

The mistake about Paul Ryan, the one that both friends and foes made over the years between his Obama-era ascent and his just-announced departure from the House speakership, was to imagine him as a potential protagonist for our politics, a lead actor in the drama of conservatism, a visionary or a villain poised to put his stamp upon the era. This Ryan-of-the-imagination...
More Stories