An Arkansas Senate bill aims to boost the paychecks of new and current law enforcement officers to incentivize them to stay in the profession.
Senate Bill 103, the Full-time Law Enforcement Officer Salary Act of 2022, by Senator Jimmy Hickey would provide stipends for full-time sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, police officers and jail administration. It also authorizes volunteer or reserve officers who do not normally receive salaries to be eligible for a stipend.
Eligible full-time law enforcement officers employed as of July 1, 2022, and officers hired after July 1, 2022, but before January 31, 2023, are entitled to the stipends, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Language in the bill states that agencies will receive enough funding to provide salary stipends to each eligible officer. Under the legislation, full-time city and county certified law enforcement officers and certified Department of Corrections probation and parole officers would receive a one-time bonus of $5,000, and state troopers would receive a one-time bonus of $2,000.
Senator Hickey explained that the bill is intended to incentivize officers to commit to a longer time in the profession, and he hopes it can be used by agencies across the state as a recruitment tool.
“What we are going to do is we will pay you your $5,000 bonus. There will be some other things attached to it so you would remain in law enforcement in Arkansas for a certain amount of time,” he said.
Hickey said the projected costs of the stipends is around $40 million. Any leftover funds will be returned to the state’s general revenue allotment reserve fund.
Governor Asa Hutchinson supports the legislation.
“It is designed to reward and incentivizes those dedicated officers who keep our streets safe and our homes protected,” Hutchinson said.
Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told KNOE 8 that the bill could help with the recruitment and retention of deputies and officers.
“It’s hard for the sheriff’s office and local police departments to compete with higher paying civilian corporations. We can’t compete with them,” Cook said.
Cook explained that his agency is currently understaffed and is looking to hire one more deputy. He hopes the bill will help draw more candidates.
Other law enforcement officers, like Deputy Dale Thornton of the Miller County Sheriff’s Office, were encouraged by the motion.
“With all the people behind us, it makes us want to do our job a lot better knowing we have the support of the community,” the deputy said.
The bill was recently approved by the Joint Budget Committee. If signed into law, law enforcement officers could receive bonuses by mid-summer this year.