Sometimes mistakes lead to larger truths. That’s what happened yesterday when I made a mistake in a story about Horry County Council passing a pay increase for all first responders.
County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus called to correct me and rightly so.
As the day wore on and the story and correction became known, I started receiving calls from first responders.
The overriding theme in those phone calls was, “It’s not about the money.”
Sure a pay raise is nice, but it’s probably not going to stop the overall trend of attrition from the ranks of first responders in Horry County.
Because of continuing shortages of officers in police and fire departments, the officers that are employed are being worked to exhaustion.
The Lazarus plan through this year’s budget planning was to give a pay raise to all first responders to stop attrition. Then, when all personnel slots are filled council can talk about increasing numbers in the police and fire departments.
The problems with losing officers are multi-fold. New officers are hired, sent to academies for training, outfitted with uniforms and gear to perform the job, all of which costs money. Training continues after they go to work. The more experience they gain through working on the job, the more valuable they become to the overall efficiency of the force.
If, after three, four or five years officers continue to throw up their hands and say ‘I’m leaving, I’ve had enough of these working conditions,’ the county loses more than just a body. It also loses the experience that officer gained on the job.
Hiring a new officer may fill a position, but the experience is lost and the overall efficiency of the force is less than it would be if retention of experienced officers was high.
Lazarus said through the Spring Budget Retreat, “It’s all about the money.” The theory being an increase in pay would result in an increase in retention of officers.
But, the men and women in the trenches, so to speak, those who are working the overtime and responding to service call after service call, sometimes on shifts of 48 straight hours, say, “It’s not about the money. We need help.”