‘The pay is what is holding us back’: Sheriff proposes sales tax to increase salaries for deputies

IBERIA PARISH, La. (KLFY) — A shortage in police officers is an issue law enforcement agencies all around the country are dealing with.

Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero is looking to get money for his department and recruit more deputies in the process. Romero is asking the community to vote yes on the sales tax he proposed on the April 27 ballots to help raise the annual salary for deputies to compete with surrounding agencies.

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Romero said he’s noticed a trend in officers leaving was not because they were tired of the job, but “they just couldn’t afford to continue to work here when other agencies were paying more money.”

According to Romero, the starting salary at the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office is just under $35,000 a year. Romero said law enforcement agencies nearby are paying $5,000 to $10,000 more than Iberia Parish. He said the low salary prevents potential deputies from choosing Iberia Parish over others, which is why he is proposing the sales tax of a quarter of a cent which he said should generate about $3.5 million to go towards salary increases.

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“We have to be able to have an application with a salary that’s attractive,” Romero said. “People are not putting in their application if they can find the same kind of work nearby and at a higher rate, they are going to put their applications there.”

High risk, low pay is a common trend for many agencies. Sheriff Romero believes promising a higher salary would get people interested in protecting and serving the community.

“They handle fentanyl and can get shot and we put a badge and a uniform on, it’s a hazardous world we live in, but we’ve got to have people interested in getting into law enforcement. It’s unattractive. The pay is what’s holding us back,” Romero said.

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