CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The recent arrest and firing of a Chatham County deputy is exposing one of the biggest challenges Sheriff John Wilcher is facing: finding qualified recruits and keeping the ones he trains.
Sheriff Wilcher has been in office for a year. In that time, he's managed to cut the number of vacancies in half.
But the fact remains, he's still 41 officers short not counting those out on family, medical or military leave. Despite recruitment campaigns, Sheriff Wilcher is still only able to hire a fraction of the hundreds who apply for the job.
"The biggest problem I am having is money. And I understand the times are not good, but to get the proper people and get the people who can do the job, I must be comparable to the [Savannah], Port Wentworth, Pooler, Bloomingdale and all these other agencies," Sheriff Wilcher said.
Until Chatham County comes up with a budget, the sheriff's requests for the money to give his deputies pay raises must wait.
In addition to a starting salary thousands of dollars less than surrounding departments, there is another issue keeping the sheriff from hiring potential officers.
"Four letter word: D-R-U-G. Drugs. They either smoke dope, or they sell dope or whatever the case may be," Sheriff Wilcher said.
The sheriff added two applicants just last week smoked marijuana the day before they came in for the interview. So, losing officers in a sudden manner, like the recently arrested Deputy Jermaine Minor, stretches the depleted ranks and your tax dollars even more.
"He's gone. He's been here eight months. He drew a salary for eight months. We spent $5,000 on training him before he even got on the floor. So, that's out the window, now you go back and start all over again. It's hitting the taxpayers in the pocket. Again, you can either pay up front initially to get good people, or you can pay on the end when you are paying time and a half," said he said.
The sheriff says his overtime expenses have hit $2.5 million. Way more than it should be.
But he acknowledged his office isn't the only one in the state or country for that matter having to work with less. In the meantime, the county finance department is working on the budget proposal, which we should find out more about next week.