A sheriff in a small town in Indiana says dozens of county correction and patrol officers are leaving to work in factories and fast food restaurants because he’s unable to pay them more.
Sheriff Brad Rogers of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department says a spending freeze is causing a staffing crisis that will ultimately impact emergency services.
"We've cut over $1 million out of the sheriff's department's budget over the past 5 or 6 years. It comes to the point where if we need to cut anymore, it's gonna cut into personnel,” Rogers told the Elkhart Truth.
Rogers pleaded with the Elkhart County Council on April 12 to amend an ordinance so he could increase officer pay.
“In 2008 the county council basically froze all raises, so for the last five years we’ve not been able to keep up,” he explained.
Pay at the department is the lowest in the region. In the last several years, dozens of staff have left to find better wages.
“That complicates issues when our public expects the sheriff’s department to be at a level of service and provide them with professionalism in responding to calls and violent situations,” Rogers said.
County Commissioner Mike Yoder claims the county is $9 million underfunded this year and it’s only going to get worse if taxes aren’t increased.
"The County Council will have to look at some sort of an income tax increase for 2015,” Yoder told Fox 28.
Rogers said his biggest fear would be cutting major services to the public.
“My main concern is to run the jail and to protect the citizens as much as I possibly can, but I can’t do it all myself,” Rogers said. “That could include reducing lobby hours for people visiting inmates. It could mean that we don’t respond to certain types of calls."
The fate of the department lies in the hands of the county council.
“One of the questions is whether or not they’re going to take this seriously and whether to prioritize the pots of money that are within county government to make sure that county service is maintained,” he said.