By Sheriff Leon Lott
– “Northern California Sheriff announces indefinite suspension of daytime patrols citing catastrophic staffing shortage.
– “Philadelphia Police to allow unarmed civilian traffic officers, offer recruitment bonuses to retain staff.”
These are just two of the headlines about the impact of public safety and our citizens.
South Carolina is no different. Agencies are all fishing from the same pond, and the ones with the biggest bait (salary) are winning. Law enforcement is a unique profession – it’s more of a calling to serve.
Not everyone can be a peace officer. You must be willing to sacrifice your health and even your life to protect the citizens. We all understand that obligation when we raise our right hand and take our oath.
Unfortunately, I am seeing the older, experienced deputies leave the profession because as they tell me, “I need to look out for my family.” Applicants look at a starting salary and base where they are beginning their career solely on money, and I can’t blame them. We all know when we become cops our pay is not the reward we seek. The reward is helping people, but the pay has to support their families.
I consider it a tragedy that I have deputies that have to get government assistance to support their family. I consider it a tragedy that Richland County Sheriff’s Department has a freezer at our headquarters with venison and pork that deputies can get to feed their families.
These are the same deputies our citizens and elected officials demand be at their best when they are needed. However, are we providing the best to those who wear the uniform of a Richland County deputy?
Politics should never interfere with public safety. Citizens don’t want a Democrat, Republican, Independent, etc. deputy when they need help. They want a trained peace officer to help them. That is what we provide and will always provide. Pay for our deputies isn’t about politics or power; it is only about taking care of the men and women that take care of our citizens.
We will continue to provide the most professional service we can to our citizens. The men and women at RCSD will give their heart and soul to this profession and our county. I will provide the best training, equipment, and support. That is my responsibility and I will never waiver in advocating for your deputies.
Please pray for the men and women of the sheriff’s department who are willing to give their all for our citizens. Remember the names of Darral Lane, Ryan Rawl, Jerry Hurd, Allen Bennett, John Mark Dial, Joe Alva, Donnie Washington and Keith Cannon. These brave men lost their lives serving the citizens of Richland County.
The fellow deputies of these brave heroes at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department need to have salaries that are comparable to our surrounding agencies. No longer do we need to be fourth or fifth best in the Midlands for salaries. Some consider us the best because of our deputies; let us show them support and pay them what they deserve.
Sheriff Leon Lott – the National Sheriff’s Association’s Sheriff of the Year 2021 – has served as sheriff of Richland County since 1996. He has served in varying capacities as a law enforcement officer for nearly 50 years.
[This op-ed was originally published in The State, Nov. 20, 2022]