by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned frustration over pay is driving some experienced officers out of the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh has heard from countless officers over the past few months who say they are frustrated they haven't seen a raise in close to five years.
Kavanaugh submitted an open records request to the department to find out how many officers they've lost, excluding retirements, terminations, and academy dropouts.
In 2010, 21 officers left the department. The numbers rose to 29 in 2011 and 28 in 2012. So far in 2013, 38 officers have left the department.
The last time Gwinnett County police officers received a base-pay raise was 2009. That raise was 4 percent.
“That is alarming," said former Gwinnett County officer Mike Puglise. "You're having qualified experienced people and they're being forced to leave. It’s economics.”
Puglise is now an attorney and has no affiliation with the department. He told Kavanaugh that they county is not just losing officers, but they experience they’ve gained and the training taxpayers paid for.
"You're talking about SWAT officers, homicide investigators, drug enforcement units,” Puglise said.
The starting salary for new officers is $35,023. Experienced officers start slightly higher at $37,648.
Exit interviews pulled by Kavanaugh showed many outgoing officers checked compensation as a main reason for leaving and wrote salary as their biggest complaint.
Kavanaugh brought the numbers to county commissioner Tommy Hunter. Hunter said he's heard the pay concerns from employees across all county departments. But, he says it comes down to how taxpayers want their money spent in a still struggling economy.
"Understanding that there is a problem and being able to do something about it sometimes is two different things.”
Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash is beginning the budget process for 2014. She was not available for an interview Tuesday, but Kavanaugh did pass along the numbers to her.
Police chief Charlie Walters declined to comment on the story.
Sources told Kavanaugh the issue of officer retention will be raised as part of the police department's budget presentation later this week.