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Greg Bluestein

Why some local officers are divided over Nathan Deal’s cash for cops plan

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Gov. Nathan Deal. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Some county sheriffs aren’t too keen on Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to raise state law enforcement pay 20 percent.

Our AJC colleague Craig Schneider reports how a range of local officers are pushing for more funding for their own salaries. From his story:

Many deputies say they earn less money than their state counterparts and are equally, if not more, deserving of a bump in pay. At this time of stress and scrutiny in the post-Ferguson era of policing, sheriffs and deputies argue that they are the front-line first responders in much of the state. GBI agents, parole officers and game wardens often come in after the fact, the sheriffs say.

“They’re support agencies, fleas on the elephant,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, a former Georgia Sheriffs’ Association president. He said the state officers deserve a raise. But speaking of the deputies and city and county police, he said, “We police Georgia.”

Deputies such as Justin Brock say they’ve had to take one or two extra jobs providing security at high school games and banks to get by. The 13-year veteran in Putnam County, who makes $34,000 a year as a deputy, said he struggles to support a household that includes his disabled wife, three children and his mother.

“I’m just wishing they did more for the local side,” Brock said. “I wish they would even the playing field.”

Read more of Schneider’s piece here.

But not all share that concern. Gordon County Mitch Ralston took an opposite tack in an open letter sent to Deal’s office.

“In the end, it’s all about trust and relationships. I trust the people hired by the state to do their job of helping me do my job when help is needed. I maintain the relationships I have with them so as to better serve the people of Gordon County,” Ralston wrote. “Again, congratulations to Gov. Deal for recognizing the needs of Georgia’s state law enforcement officers. Enhancing their services can only make Gordon County a safer place to live, work and raise our families.”

It also earned the support of Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. He said in a letter to Deal that the proposal “will enable our state’s protectors of life and property to be on par with the salaries of many other state law enforcement officials in the Southeast.”

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan said the salaries of local officers is a “local prerogative and the governor respects that.” Added top Deal aide Chris Riley:

More: Read why Deal says his plan is a ‘decisive step’ to fix a problem that has long frustrated him