HENRY COUNTY — Henry County Sheriff’s Deputies starting salary is right around $42,000 a year. The pay is significantly less than nearby law enforcement agencies.
Henry County Sheriff Rick McCorkle said it’s costing him good deputies. “I am losing people, yes,” McCorkle said. “I’ve got one that’s applied for IMPD and my understanding is there’s a possibility of a sign-on bonus that is pretty significant at least in our world it’s significant. And then I lost an officer to campus police recently. So it’s tough.”
A recent survey on law enforcement salaries done by Delaware County Sheriff’s Department shows that Henry, Delaware, Huntington, and Switzerland counties are all paying their patrolmen around $42,000 a year or less.
The data also shows that Ball State University Police start out around $10,000 a year for these deputies at more than $52,000 a year. Sheriff’s deputies in Monroe, Bartholomew, and Tippecanoe counties are also starting out in the low to mid 50’s range.
“We have to fix it,” said McCorkle, who is working to resolve the issue with county council members. He wants his deputies’ salaries raised in order to compete with other departments and retain staff.
“At least an equalization to help keep our officers here,” McCorkle added.
This pay difference is also making it more difficult to attract new deputies to the department.
"It's getting harder and harder to get good quality police officers to apply. We have a hiring process and when I went through there were 150 guys taking the test and this last time I think we had 16 people show up,” Nate Kovacs, Sargeant with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department said.
Kovacs has served Henry County for more than two decades. He says it’s frustrating to see fewer quality candidates applying to work alongside him.
"There's nothing like going on a call that, say a shots fired, or something like that, and you know you got with you that I know this guy knows what he's doing. He's got my back and I feel safe doing that,” Kovacs said.
Unfortunately, the problem is not new.
"Budgets and pay have always been a struggle with Henry County,” said Anthony Darling, who retired from the department in 2018.
Darling was part of the sheriff’s department for 23 years and he says it was always challenging to get by on the pay he was given.
"My heart aches for those who are trying to serve and raise families and doing the best that they can."
Darling, who is now a pastor in Knightstown, worries for the safety of citizens and the well being of the officers tasked with picking up the slack if more deputies decide to leave for better paying positions.
"It's a great concern to have the sufficient manpower to handle calls. But I also know that the people who are working, how burdensome it gets to them because they are going to answer the calls anyways,” Darling said.
People who live in Henry County are supportive of the deputies getting a pay increase.
"If you don't call being a police officer hazardous duty, you are wrong because it is. There are dangerous people out there and we need people like that to take care of us and keep us safe,” said Rodney Renfro, a longtime Henry County resident.
McCorkle is currently in talks with county council members on how to raise deputy pay. He is hopeful there will be a resolution to the issue.
"I believe that the council people, the men and women that we are dealing with now, understand and know that there are things that need to be corrected and we're working very hard to get it done,” McCorkle said.