Sheriff: Deputies’ pay is big issue for Macon-Bibb

Gap will take time to close

jgaines@macon.comDecember 4, 2013 

The biggest challenge facing the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office as it merges with the Macon Police Department is inequity of pay, Sheriff David Davis and Cara Cotton, the sheriff’s director of strategic management, told most of the incoming Macon-Bibb County Commission on Wednesday morning.

Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, one of the commissioners-elect who will take office at the end of this year, asked what it would cost to equalize pay between agencies.

“There’s been numbers bandied about of something over $1 million in disparity,” Davis said. Starting officers in both agencies make about the same, but there’s a gap between police and sheriff’s personnel among those who have a decade or more of service, he said.

That can’t be resolved in the new government’s first year, but the new government needs to at least demonstrate its intention to equalize pay by setting up a plan, Davis said.

Macon officers want to make as much as deputies, while deputies worry their pay will be frozen until former Macon officers catch up, Cotton said.

The combined sheriff’s office and police department is really a new agency, adopting some practices from each, she said.

“It is a merger, not a takeover,” Cotton said. A position has been found for all current police and sheriff’s personnel, she said.

The name will still be the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, since the job of sheriff is written into the state constitution -- and the sheriff will answer directly to voters, not to other Macon-Bibb elected officials, Cotton said.

New gray uniforms probably won’t arrive in time for the Jan. 1 changeover, but at least most patrol officers may be equipped by then, she said.

When the new agency officially comes into being Jan. 1, it will include about 600 sworn deputies and 160 civilian personnel, making the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office the fourth-largest law enforcement agency in the state, Cotton said.

And both existing agencies are below full strength, Davis said. If all sworn positions were filled, that would rise to about 635 deputies, he said.

While all sheriff’s deputies are issued cars that they take home, some Macon police use pool cars -- and many of the city’s cars are high-mileage, so in the consolidated government’s first budget, Davis said, he’s likely to ask for quite a few new cars.

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