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9.14.23 – THV 11- BENTON, Ark.

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily, but some smaller departments find it harder to pay officers their desired wages

Many who enter law enforcement describe the profession as “a calling,” but in recent years, that call has been answered less and less. 

“The pay always seems to be an issue at some point where you feel like you’re giving more than what you’re getting,” Benton police Lt. Quinton Jackson said. “I applied back in 2002. There were probably at least 75 people in the room with me, whereas nowadays, we will do testing, and there’s not that many.”

For years, there’s been a shortage of police officers, so to close the gap, Jackson developed a solution. “We have upped our base pay to $51,000,” Jackson said. “We did that back in June, and since then, we’ve gotten many applicants to come in, some certified, some not.”

Although that solves some of the problems for the Benton Police Department, smaller agencies like the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are still trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“In the last two to three weeks, I’ve lost three uniformed deputy sheriffs,” Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson said. “I am currently down three detention officers in my jail, and my jail administrator turned in his notice yesterday to work outside law enforcement.”

Watson said on average, their starting pay is $34,398, and they would love to offer more if the funding were approved.

“Everybody wants to be able to pay their bills and provide for their family and enjoy life,” Watson said. “I want that for all my officers.”

However, being short-staffed, officers across the state bring up safety concerns for the public.

“We’ve got to get a handle on it because we need good officers on the street,” Watson said. “We don’t just need to fill uniforms, and that’s a fear that when we’re just filling uniforms, sometimes we’re creating problems for ourselves.”

“Because 99% of those men and women get up every day for that salary, and they go and work and do what is right for the community,” Watson said. “They put the citizens first.”

Although Watson said they probably won’t see that pay increase anytime soon, it doesn’t negate the fact that each of his deputies wants to protect and serve.

According to Watson, the quorum court plans to discuss raises for Clark County deputies at their next meeting in the second week of October.

Click here for more information on starting pay and incentives for the Benton Police Department.