Small towns must consider the wages of justice

An editorial from The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — It could be considered the bane of small police departments. A new officer is hired. The city pays for certification training at the West Virginia State Police Academy. The officer reports for duty and in a few months or a year, gets a better offer from another town, another law enforcement agency, and is gone, leaving the department poorer for the loss in many ways.

Lewisburg City Council voted last week to adjust its police department’s pay scale in an attempt to stem such defections. Chief Tim Stover reported that the department has lost three officers so far this year, after seeing two move to other agencies in 2013.

Stover proposed a raise to the city’s Finance Committee in August, which, after analysis, recommended the hike to the full council, which approved it. Under the former pay scale, a non-certified officer in Lewisburg would earn $26,200 with a bump to $27,800 after completing the academy, according to figures supplied by the Lewisburg Police Department. Under the new scale, which takes effect Thursday, non-certified officers will receive $29,600, an increase of $3,400; after completion of the academy, the bump is $3,200 to $31,000. A certified office who who completes a one-year probationary period will receive a $1,400 increase.

With all of the dangers police officers face — any situation can turn deadly in a heartbeat — no amount of recompense seems enough.

We realize every group employed by states, counties and towns are clamoring for more money. It is the same in private business, manufacturing, every aspect of the workaday world.

But we believe extra care should be taken with our peace officers. For who else is out there, putting their very lives on the line day after day after day? Their family lives are affected, as well, as the stress of the shift sometimes doesn’t stay in the patrol car when they go home.

West Virgina police officers and deputies as a group aren’t the lowest paid in the United States, but they are well down on the list…

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