TIPTON – Tipton County Sheriff Tony Frawley said smaller law enforcement agencies were told at last year’s Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police conference that larger agencies were coming for their best and brightest.
“It’s starting to hit home,” Frawley said.
In a half an hour presentation on Tuesday to the Tipton County Council, Frawley said his department will not be able to attract and maintain quality employees as competition among larger, nearby law enforcement agencies ramps up and is asking the county council to approve pay raises for his staff.
Frawley said his department has already lost three deputies in the last few months – two to the Kokomo Police Department and one to the Howard County Sheriff’s Department – due to higher pay.
One of the former employees who joined KPD is now being paid $18,000 more, Frawley said, while the other is now being paid $16,000 more. The former employee who left for Howard County Sheriff’s Department is now making $10,000 more and received a $5,000 hiring bonus. That’s not including better insurance and pension benefits, Frawley added.
The city of Kokomo recently implemented a 20% pay raise over three years for its officers, pumping pay for first class patrolman (often earned after two years of employment in the department) to $61,846 in 2023 and has gone full speed ahead on recruitment, creating a commercial and airing it in cities across the state, creating a recruitment website and designating an officer as a full-time recruiter.
“I understand where they’re coming from,” Frawley said about his former deputies who now work in Howard County. “All married except one, kids, and when they came to me they said, ‘We’ve tried to make this work. We can’t continue like this.’”
But the issue for the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department is not just about losing employees. It’s also about attracting good jail and police officers, something Frawley said he’s concerned about, especially with such disparities in pay with neighboring counties.
“We have trouble attracting good, qualified applicants,” Frawley said.
The starting salary for a correctional officer in the county is $32,784 and $45,968 after one year for deputies, according to Frawley, and that’s before taxes and benefit deductions. Health insurance, alone, costs $1,900 for a single person plan and $5,900 for a family plan in premiums, not including out-of-pocket expenses.
Average officer and deputy salaries in neighboring counties is $51,309 in the first year and $55,742 after the first year of employment, according to numbers provided by Frawley.
The council didn’t approve anything at its Tuesday meeting, but it did approve to advertise additional appropriations from the General Fund of $107,650 and $70,510 to go toward pay raises for correctional officers and deputies, respectively. At those numbers, the county would be able to raise starting correctional officer pay to $37,500 and $51,000 for deputies.
The county council will discuss the issue further and potentially vote on it at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16.
The Tipton County Sheriff’s Department isn’t the only one struggling to compete with larger agencies.
The city of Tipton recently approved a $5,000 bonus for lateral transfers into the police department to entice prospective employees and to remain competitive with area departments.
The city of Peru also voted to increase wages for its police officers after losing officers to Kokomo.