The future of the Glynn County Police Department is in question, but this much is for certain: something will have to change if a public vote favored pulling county police into the sheriff’s office.
State Senate Bill 317, proposed by Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, and state House Bill 866 proposed by Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, would allow state and county governments to allow the public to vote whether to abolish county police departments.
Glynn County Manager Alan Ours says it’s more than a simple question of adding together the budgets of the police department and sheriff’s office. There’s the question of which assets to keep and what to do about the staff.
For instance, he notes, raising police officer salaries to match those of deputies would not be feasible.
“The current county budget cannot support that,” Ours said. “There would have to be cuts or the budget raised.”
Ours is not in a position to say at the moment whether the salaries of police officers would have to be raised, but if their paychecks remained the same, less would have to be cut.
Pay for employees in the two departments, included in the county’s job classification list and in grade order, show the two starting on equal footing. A newly-hired police officer and deputy are in the same pay grade.
Where gaps begin showing up is in promotions, where deputies enjoy an edge over equivalent police positions.
Basic police officers can be promoted once to a higher pay bracket and can earn three more promotions as a master police officer. At that point, the officer would receive an annual salary between $45,575 and $72,921, depending on performance, experience and education.
Deputies, on the other hand, can be promoted four times and do not have an equivalent position to master police officer. After four promotions, a deputy would earn a salary between $48,708 and $77,934.
While not be a large gap, it’s higher than the pay grade for police sergeants and on par with the first tier of a police lieutenant’s grade, both of which are supervisory roles.
The same holds for most supervisory positions.
Except for a promoted police captain, both deputy major and deputy colonel are in equal or higher pay grades than all supervisory roles at the police department.
The exception is found in the promotion path for jail guards at the Glynn County Detention Center. The pay for detention center guards is generally lower than the equivalent police department rank.
Despite the higher pay, county human resources manager Orah Reed said it’s not all that common for county police officers to transfer to the sheriff’s office.
“There’s no real big difference in their salaries and not a lot of people have done that,” Reed said.
The county police measures sponsored by Ligon and Jones give counties 180 days to complete a consolidated police force if approved by voters. It also includes a sunset clause that would take the law off the books in 2021.
Hogan and Ligon have stated their intention to call such a vote if the bills pass and are signed into law.