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Sheriff Lockhart hopeful classification, compensation and benefits study will help curb deputy attrition

During the Monday Chambers County Commission meeting, Sheriff Sid Lockhart and Maj. TJ Wood were in attendance to offer several updates concerning the sheriff’s office.

Lockhart addressed the commission about concerns CCSO is currently facing with deputies leaving for more lucrative opportunities.

Lockhart said a Chambers County deputy who has not completed the academy earns $15.72 per hour. Once a deputy completes the academy, his or her compensation moves to $16.13 per hour. Lockhart said at least one deputy will be leaving for Opelika due to the higher compensation.

“We can’t compete with Opelika/Auburn or Lee County, but I believe if we can get it up some, it will help us a little bit,” Lockhart said.

In comparison, Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon says an officer with the Valley Police Department would start at $15.96, but it would be more for an individual with prior military experience, higher education or strong work history. Jeremy Burkett with Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) said the salary range for a trooper is $36,657.60 – $55,615.20 annually. Based on a 40 hour work week, those salaries range from $17.62 per hour up to $26.74.

“Starting salaries will be adjusted based on education above the minimum completion of a two-year and four-year degree,” Burkett said.

In Opelika, there are three levels for officers, according to Community Relations Specialist Allison Duke. An officer in training who is uncertified with no experience will earn $20.07, a certified officer with one year experience earns $21.41 and a certified officer with a minimum of three years experience earns $22.75 per hour.

Across the state line in Georgia, West Point Police Chief Donald Britt said the starting pay for the West Point Police Department is $35,560.69 or approximately $17.10 per hour. Troup County Manager Eric Mosley said a Troup County sheriff’s deputy starts at $17.53 per hour, and LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar said his department begins a recruit officer at $21.57 per hour. Dekmar said an officer pending the academy starts at a minimum of $15.30.

Lockhart also said CCSO is paying to send new deputies to the academy only to see them leave for more lucrative opportunities.

“We have several others that are looking, and most of them we’ve sent to the academy. So, you invest several $1,000 and they stay, you know, a few years and they’re gone,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart alluded to a salary study that the county was currently having completed by Evergreen Solutions out of Tallahassee, Florida. Back in December, the county approved a consulting services agreement with Evergreen to perform a classification, compensation and benefits study. Through that study, Evergreen plans to produce recommendations to the county for a classification and compensation system that is equitable, both internally and externally. The results of that study are expected to be concluded on or before June 1, according to the agreement signed on Dec. 29, 2020.

Lockhart also announced a few personnel moves. LT. Tommy High would take over the position that was vacated after the death of Capt Jason Fuller. High was previously assigned to court security and that position will now be held by Sgt. Shannon Frailey and Sgt. Derek Wright will replace Frailey as a patrol sergeant.

Finally, Wood addressed the commission about the upcoming prescription drug take back event that is scheduled for April 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time.

“What this is is where you can take your old prescription and unused prescription medication and drop it into these boxes so that these medications don’t make it into the wrong hands,” Wood said. “It’s a combined effort with DEA and mental health and some other organizations to do this every year, but for the most part, our Drug Task Force usually partners with DEA and sets up as far as getting the medications out of the drop boxes and getting it destroyed.”

Wood also said there is a box at the courthouse year round for anyone that needs to dispose of medication.

The drop boxes will be located at the courthouse, Lanett Police Department, Valley Police Department and Walmart.