NEWBERRY, S.C. — In the Midlands, several counties are seeing a shortage of law enforcement applicants, especially in Newberry County.
"It’s a state-wide problem and it’s a national problem," said Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster.
Foster said his department is seeing the impacts from the shortage of people not wanting to go into law enforcement. It is a cycle he has seen before, but now it is worse.
“I’ve been in the business for 40 years and I’ve never seen it like this," he said.
The Newberry County applicant pool is slim, and those applying don’t meet the minimum standards.
"We just don’t have the ability here to attract from the larger job pools and the Columbia metropolitan area or from the Greenville area because those areas pay so much more than we do, but they have the ability to pay more," Foster said.
The shortage is partly a matter of economics. According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2017 the national average salary for police and sheriff patrol officers was nearly $65,000. In South Carolina it was a little more than $42,000.
“Money has a lot to do with it, but I think the other thing is I think law enforcement, they see what a lot of things law enforcement has to put up with, they see that it's a dangerous job and the rewards for the hazardous duties that we have to fulfill may not be there," Foster said.
Foster said their work is more about serving and helping the community then arresting people. But no matter the shortage it will not keep them from their duties.
“We are going to answer calls and we are going to be there," Foster said. "You might have a tired deputy, but we're still going to answer calls and be there. But the future of this, I'm afraid is not extremely bright.”
Foster is still remaining hopeful the shortage shift will soon change.
“I do have faith," Foster said. "I am hopeful the government will work with law enforcement, and that the government will work with the people and we will turn this back around."
The office is working on incentives for people to join their work force. If the city council’s budget passes they will be able to give a 5 percent pay raise to certain areas, and possibly give bonuses to those who work overnights.