Kershaw County Sheriff says department in desperate need for better pay

Published: Jun. 11, 2016 at 4:22 PM EDT
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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A Midlands sheriff says his deputies desperately need better pay, even if that means a small tax hike.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews says he's losing deputies left and right.

Sheriff Matthews says his deputies have to deal with the worst of society. They're cussed at, spit at, fought with, and threatened. The sheriff says he understands why some of his deputies look for new jobs at other departments when they take home a check of $800 after two weeks of hard work.

Every day is a day of hard work for Sergeant Kyle Hewitt with the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office.

"Every morning when I put my uniform on and I kiss my boys in the morning, that could very well be the last time I see my boys. It could be very well the last time I see my life," said Sergeant Hewitt.

Hewitt says he has four boys being home-schooled by his wife at home.

"I'm the only source of income for my family. Every time I get out of bed, that struggle is real of living check-to-check. Every family, whenever they get established, that's their goal is, you know, to be able to put a couple paychecks back."

For Sergeant Hewitt and other deputies at Kershaw County, that's hard to do. A place where Sheriff Jim Matthews says the starting salary is too low.

"$31,500 a year.  It's ridiculous what these guys get paid and what they have to deal with," said Sheriff Matthews.

The sheriff says the low pay is the reason he can't fill several deputy positions here, and the reason deputies are leaving Kershaw County for other departments.

Matthews says, in just a year-and-a-half, eleven deputies have left to work elsewhere.

"These guys are leaving, because they can't pay their bills. I had two Richland County deputies who came over to give us a try. They stayed about a month, and they said, 'Sheriff, I loved working in Kershaw County, but I can't pay my bills.'"

It's the reason Matthews is hoping the county council will consider giving his entry-level deputies, and some sergeants, better pay when they pass a budget next week.

"There are a lot of councilmen who are in favor of this pay raise, but if you're in favor of it and won't fund it, then you're really not in favor of it."

The sheriff and his deputy say it needs to happen, even if it means a small tax increase.

"Me, personally, I think it'll be worth it," expressed Sergeant Hewitt.

Richland County pay starts around $35,000. Lexington County starts close to $40,000. Columbia Police Department also pays more than Kershaw County.

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