Harrison County

Harrison County Sheriff’s patrolmen to get pay raise

Protesters hold various signs in favor of taking the Mississippi state flag down prior to attending Harrison County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Protesters hold various signs in favor of taking the Mississippi state flag down prior to attending Harrison County Board of Supervisors meeting. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Harrison County Sheriff’s Office patrolmen will see a 6 percent pay increase in their Oct. 28 checks after the Board of Supervisors narrowly approved the raises.

Supervisor President Beverly Martin and District One Supervisor Connie Rockco voted against the raises.

Rockco said she was in favor of the increases, but not how the county would have to pay for them. The 116 state-certified officers would have received half the raise this year and half next year because the county had just set its budget and now would have to amend it, possibly digging into reserves it sets aside for hurricanes and other emergencies.

The sheriff agreed to find $177,491, half the $354,982 cost of the raises, in the Sheriff’s Office budget. Supervisors Marlin Ladner, Kent Jones and Angel Kibler-Middleton voted to pay the other half this year. The increase, the sheriff said, would raise the starting salary from $32,000 to $34,080.

Sheriff Troy Peterson said the increase will make his salaries competitive with the rest of the Coast law enforcement agencies. As it is, he said, he spends $5,000 to train an new officer only to lose him or her to another department that offers a higher salary.

“I can’t fault a person for wanting leave,” he said. “If a person comes to me and says I can make $3,000 more for less work, I can’t fault that. I understand it.”

He said the raises wouldn’t go to administrative personnel, just to the officers “who carry a gun every day, work on the streets every day.”

Martin said Monday that during budget hearings the sheriff had told the board the total amount he would need because he didn’t want to come back and ask for a budget amendment.

“I can work within our budget,” Peterson said. “I’m asking you for a pay raise for the county employees who work for the sheriff’s department. It has nothing to do with my main budget.”

Ladner said the board amends the budget all the time because of items such as rising electric bills.

“That’s common procedure,” he said. “It’s not something you should abuse.”

Earlier, the supervisors listened to both sides of the state flag argument but didn't take a vote.

Mark Isaacs of the Mississippi Rising Coalition said removing the flag from county buildings would help show the rest of the world that Mississippi has changed from the days of segregation, lynchings and Jim Crow laws.

“That was who we were then, that’s not who we are now,” he said. Mississippi Rising founder Lea Coleman and Biloxi NAACP chapter President James Crowell made similar arguments.

Wallace Mason of Gulfport, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the people voted in 2001 to keep the flag.

“It has to go back on the ballot for it to be changed,” he said. “They know they can’t get the numbers on a petition and if voted on the outcome would be the same.”

It was the second time opponents of the flag have asked the board to take it down from county-owned buildings. They did take votes on several other issues during the public comment portion of the meeting.