AP Photo/Steve Helber
That’s the allegation from Virginia state Senator Bill Stanley, a Republican lawmaker who says he tried to amend the state’s budget to allow for a 3-percent raise for sheriffs and their deputies. Unfortunately, the measure died on the floor of the Senate, and Stanley says shortly after the vote, the Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw, told him why.
According to Stanley, the Democrat senator from northern Virginia made it clear that the rejection of the small pay increase was due to the opposition of Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda on the part of many sheriffs around the state.
When I asked him which law was he talking about, he said “gun control”. I was shocked that the Democrats are now punishing our local Sheriff’s Departments (by eliminating a pay raise for them), for the their choice to protect and defend our citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Democrats want to restrict a citizen’s right to protect themselves, but won’t pay our sheriffs’ deputies to protect Virginians. Hypocrisy has a name.
This move by Senate Democrats won’t just hit deputies and sheriffs in Second Amendment Sanctuary counties, but will also apply in those four counties that haven’t signed on to any pro-Second Amendment resolutions. The political move will also impact rural Virginians and the safety of their communities. Many rural sheriffs are already facing staffing and retention problems, in part because of the relatively low pay, as the Martinsville Bulletin in southern Virginia reported back in 2016.
The sheriff’s association paper includes a chart with a pay comparison for state law enforcement versus county deputies who are state supported, using Patrick County sheriff’s employees as an example. To clarify, the state pay doesn’t change with different counties. The only difference is the amount of the supplement, meaning that if a deputy wants to make more at a certain level, then they’re forced to go to counties that can afford to give more locally.
As of Sept. 1, 2015, state pay for a starting deputy sheriff was $31,009, increased to $34,299 with the local supplement in Patrick County. That’s compared to $36,207 for a state trooper and $35,700 as a starting salary for a game warden. After one year, state pay increases to $32,423 for a deputy sheriff. With a shrinking local supplement, the final salary remained the same at $34,299. A state trooper after the first year, by comparison, gets an increase to $40,482. After five years, a deputy sheriff makes $32,712 in state pay, for a total of $35,331 after the local supplement is added in. A state trooper with five years of experience makes $43,268.
After the five year mark, the pay for a deputy sheriff doesn’t change for more than seven years. A deputy with 10 years on the job in Patrick County makes the same as a fifth-year. A deputy with 12 years of experience also makes the same as someone with just five years on the job. By comparison, a state trooper with 12 years in makes $53,300. The only increase for deputies comes at the 20-year mark, where they make $37,260 in state pay and $40,224 with the local supplement. At this same point, a trooper with 20 years of experience brings home $60,100 in Virginia.
In that report, Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said that the state is simply underpaying sheriffs deputies, especially compared to surrounding states.
Two Patrick County deputies have resigned in the last two months, one being an eight-year veteran sergeant who left for better pay at a local manufacturing facility, Smith said.
“Pay is the main reason people leave. A 12-year veteran deputy who makes $36,000 per year loses hope after a while,” Smith said.
He noted that deputies received a total of 5 percent in state pay increases since 2007, with no compression pay increases like other state employees have received.
According to Smith, even though deputies are constitutional officers and are classified as state-supported local employees, the state does not offer equal support for them.
“Virginia is the ninth richest state in America, according to Forbes, however, they are paying their deputy sheriffs 25 percent less than the national average for patrol officers,” according to Smith. The fact that the starting pay for some deputies qualifies them for government assistance “should be embarrassing to the General Assembly and to the governor’s office,” according to Smith.
A 3-percent raise wasn’t going to fix every issue with staffing, but it would have at least provided a cost-of-living increase for deputies across the state. Now, thanks to anti-gun Democrats in the legislature, the earning power of these deputies will continue to fall behind their counterparts in the state police and other sheriffs departments around the country.
It’s also worth noting that back in December, Gov. Ralph Northam claimed that Second Amendment Sanctuaries in the state wouldn’t face retribution from lawmakers in his party.
Governor Ralph Northam says there will be no retaliation for becoming one but says there could be consequences if laws aren’t followed.
The decision to start declaring localities a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ comes after Virginia Democrats took control of the General Assembly in the latest election.
Northam said he plans to pass stricter gun laws that include universal background checks.
“If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books then there are going to be some consequences but I’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it,” Northam said while speaking at Virginia Beach Wednesday, Dec. 11.
So far, neither the governor nor Sen. Saslaw have publicly responded to Sen. Stanley’s allegations.