South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster recently called for wage increases for state law enforcement officers during a speech at the state House.
McMaster addressed his speech to law enforcement officials, proposing a plan to increase the base pay across the board for state law enforcement to bolster staff numbers and stay competitive in the labor market.
McMaster said the decision came after a six-week study by the Department of Administration found that law enforcement salaries were not reasonable given officers’ experience and performance.
According to the study, state law enforcement jobs offer an average starting pay of $40,000 compared to $56,900 per year in the private sector.
“And it’s important to note that these [private sector] positions do not have the inherent risk that you have with law enforcement officer positions,” Department of Administration Executive Director Marsha Adams said.
The study recommended a pay increase to $43,500 for class one law enforcement officers, along with a 5% raise for those with years of experience.
Among the six state agencies that already offer a base pay of $43,500, officers will not receive an increase but may receive a 5% raise.
The increase would put South Carolina law enforcement pay ahead of neighboring states, Georgia and North Carolina.
The biggest recommended increase in pay would impact the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. The study recommends increasing the agency’s starting pay from $38,000 to $50,500.
“These increases represent anywhere from almost 10% to 33% increases at these individual agencies for entry-level law enforcement officers,” Adams added.
Adams said that officers would receive either the base pay increase or a 5% raise — depending on which is higher.
Department of Administration officials estimate the proposal to cost $17.9 million annually.
Adams hopes the pay increases will help solve the state’s staffing woes. Currently, the study found an 18% vacancy rate statewide. For entry-level positions, the vacancy rate is even higher at 30%.
Adams cited a lack of applicants and an increase in retirements as the main reasons for the staffing shortage. The reason for the lack of applicants, she says, is due to low wages.
Compared with local law enforcement agencies, the starting pay for state law enforcement is not as competitive.
State officials hope that increasing wages can turn this trend around. The recommendations have been included in the House Ways and Means Committee budget proposal.