Winter Haven, Florida -- There seems to be a talent drain going on in the region when it comes to law enforcement.
Deputies from smaller, lower paying-departments are being lured to larger, higher-paying agencies.
Just this past week, on the popular police forum Leoaffairs.com, a conversation says Tampa Police are "...about to hire a lot of Polk Co. S.O. deputies." It says "Roughly 20 or so" were present at TPD's recently-offered physical test.
Just four Polk deputies were hired away by TPD last year.
"It's all about the Benjamins," comes a response on the website, "..people are tired of being undercompensated."
"We don't find that we're losing an inordinate amount of deputies," said Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, "What we find is we can't recruit enough good deputies."
Sheriff Grady Judd says his department usually loses workers at half the average rate, but an improving economy is admittedly creating temptation among some deputies.
Better-paying departments are suddenly filling several positions held open the past few years.
"And that normal movement that would have always occurred is just now starting back," said Sheriff Judd.
The longer-term threat to public saftey, says Judd, is the small percentage of young people expressing interest in law enforcement. As members of his department retire, the number of qualified applicants will be shrinking, says Judd.
In Pasco County they're dealing with a possible deputy depletion as well.
Neighboring Pinellas County S.O. is targeting Pasco, luring deputies who have already been vetted and trained with bigger salaries and even signing bonuses.
Judd says the cost of recruiting, vetting and training can be $40,000 to $60,000.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco says he doesn't begrudge his employees.
"When you can go to Pinellas for a lot more money I understand that," he says.
With a wave of retirement openings coming, Nocco is asking Pasco commissioners for more money to compete but critics say it's a ploy to bolster the sheriff's budget.
But Nocco says it just makes sense when you consider the costs of replacing deputies who leave.
"You're actually losing more money by not keeping the people here and compensating them, than for us to have to re-hire and re-train somebody new," said Nocco.
Both Sheriffs says someone eventually fill the openings at a lower pay rate, but with neighboring agencies offering as much as $10,000 more per year, both Sheriff Judd and Nocco also say they will eventually need to pay more money to attract qualified applicants.
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