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Starke County Sheriff fighting retention problem with historic pay raise

KNOX, Ind. - After losing four patrolmen in three months, Starke County deputies are looking at their first pay raise in 25 years—as long as the state approves the County Council’s budget.

Last week, the council approved the sheriff’s request for a $5,000 pay increase for deputies.

With a victory at his heels, the Starke County Sheriff sat down exclusively with ABC 57’s Jess Arnold to discuss what that raise could mean for the county.

If the state approves the council’s budget in the next couple months, dispatchers are also looking at an extra $1,000 in their bank accounts.

With the sheriff and council working together to shuffle around funds, they’re hoping to take Starke County from a training ground for deputies to a destination.

The sheriff is hoping to hear some of the same voices in the radio chatter now that the council granted the department its first pay raise in 25 years.

Unfortunately, they had to lose four officers in the past three months to get it.

“One person would put a dent in our operations,” said Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin.

“We kind of dug into why we were losing them, and it come down to some of them left for the pay,” he said.

About 80% ‘left for the pay’ in the last 20 years, according to Sheriff Dulin.

“And we done a comprehensive study guide and we done a pay scale comparison to other departments,” he said.

In this study, Sheriff Dulin discovered that Starke County deputies are paid the lowest salary by far in the surrounding area, compared to Marshall, La Porte, St. Joseph, and Elkhart counties.

They even shined the spotlight on police departments within Starke County, namely Hamlet, Knox, North Judson—and they still came up short.

Because of this stark contrast, “we were usually losing employees after the first and second year, and there comes a cost to that…It comes right around $16,800 for everything within that first year,” said Sheriff Dulin.

“If you lose four people, that’s 70 some thousand dollars right there…Huge, huge cut for a small county that’s on a tight budget anyway,” he said.

Luckily for the county, the council and sheriff’s department found wiggle room in the Department of Corrections billing funds to grant all 11 officers a $5,000 raise.

“Every policeman, I don’t care where you work at, you’re going to work two or three jobs, and that’s part of police work to try to make ends meet, so hopefully that will cut it down to one job rather than two or three,” said the sheriff.

He says even without this raise, he loves getting up every day and getting into his patrol car.

“It’s a rewarding career. It’s still home, and you can still get the excitement that you might get in police work,” said Sheriff Dulin.

Now, that career will offer some more dollars in their pockets.

With this pay increase, they’re hoping to cut down on overtime as well, which the sheriff says they were paying every week.

The council also increased part-time pay to about $18, which is competitive in the area.

The final budget does not go into effect until the state approves it in a couple months.

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