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Big Bend law enforcement agencies address recruitment, pay concerns

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 21:09:34-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Nearly nine out of ten law enforcement agencies in the United States are currently under-staffed. That's according to the National Police Foundation. Those challenges are now impacting departments in the Big Bend.

The Tallahassee Police Department is putting more effort into recruitment.

The National Police Foundation reports 86% of law enforcement agencies nationwide are experiencing a shortage. Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell says TPD isn't seeing the labor shortage to the degree that other agencies are, but there's always a need for more recruitment.

"Where recruiting is down across the country and we're definitely having a harder time with recruiting, we're still doing very well," said Chief Revell.

Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell says when it comes to being competitive, the capital city has an advantage.

"Even starting pay, we're very competitive and people move very quickly through that,"

TPD's annual salary range is $47,944.00 - $85,421.93. On June 2nd, city commissioners approved a new three-year-contract negotiation. The estimated cost will run the city an $2.6 million. The contract comes with a two percent pay increase in 2022 and 2023 for all members of the police union. It also includes parental leave benefits of 240 hours a year.

Chief Revell says the recently approved contract between the city and the police union will make TPD even more competitive.

"The commission and the city mangers have just been tremendously supportive. They've given us a quarter million dollars for recruiting, our billboards are going up," he said.

Chief Revell says their focus is on making sure they get an agency that accurately reflects the communities they will serve. Recruitment efforts are especially present at Florida A & M University.

"The Tallahassee Police Department is a very diverse agency, in fact we're nationally known for that. We want to continue that and get better. We seek out all of the minority groups to make sure we're representing Tallahassee so that our department looks like our community," said the Chief.

He says he wants to see more people calling for change at TPD to join TPD.

“You can sit out there all day and say you want to see change but come be a part of that change. It not only helps the community be representative, which we want to do. It also helps our officers here learn that diversity even more.”

Meanwhile, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office is lobbying for better pay.

"For many years now, predating sheriff Miller and several administration's, the pay disparity between the local county sheriff's office and other surrounding agencies has been a bit of an issue, " said Wakulla County Sheriff's Lt. Jeffrey Yarbrough.

That issue has led to a problem keeping people in the county.

"For many years, we've had a high turnover rate. One of the things Sheriff Miller is looking to rectify is to get a percentage increase in pay so we can retain employees and not have such a high turnover rate," said Lt. Yarbrough.

Sheriff Miller is currently negotiating with the county over higher pay for his team.

Wakulla County Sheriff's Office base pay is $31,000. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows it as the 6th lowest base pay in the state. Larger counties like Leon County start at $43,000.

"We have a lot of support from the County Commissioners. They're all working their best to try to make this happen. It's not an adversarial relationship at all between the Sheriff's Office Chair and the County Commissioners," said Lt. Yarbrough.

The negotiations will likely go until October. If you're interested in applying to either job, you can find Tallahassee's application here. You can find Wakulla Counties here.