Red River County has an issue on its hands when it comes to keeping Law Enforcement Officers, and it starts with the amount of pay per hour for its LEOs – from dispatch to deputies. Shortly after the Red River County Commissioners’ Meeting, Caleb Sleeper, who wears the RRCSO badge for his 19-month-old daughter, asks the county commissioners to “pay me what a retail employee is worth.”
Sleeper, who is one of just six RRCSO deputies, makes just $13.50 per hour with his six-year of law enforcement background – about two years with Red River County, receiving a “small, negligible raise in Oct. 2020.”
“If I can go work in retail or make frou-frou drinks at the coffee shop for more than what I make here, something is definitely wrong,” Sleeper said. “Yes, if you work in retail, you run the risk of being robbed, run the risk of having a gun pulled on you. Those odds, however, are astronomical compared to what we face on a daily basis.”
Several people from the Red River County community attended Monday morning’s county commissioners’ meeting in support of Law Enforcement Officers. Some showed their support during public comments by saying, “An investment in the PD or LEO of RRC is very important,” and “You all need to come together and show this department how much they (law enforcement) mean to this county.”
Some officers openly spoke about how they are actively looking for other employment opportunities.
“My blood, sweat and tears have been put into this community, and I do it for a little more than $13 an hour,” one officer wrote in a letter read by RRC Investigator Samatha Sellers. “We know each time we pin our star on our chest we may not make it back to see our families. But we pin it on anyway and we do it proudly … We pin our stars on for $13 an hour because we care so much about you. So, how can you care so little about us?”
Sleeper said he hopes law enforcement in Red River County get paid “at least much as a retail employee.” He said he doesn’t expect to make the same as an officer in and around the Dallas area, “but the gentleman who has no high school diploma, no formal training, sacking groceries – at least pay me what he’s worth.”
During the Red River County Commissioners’ meeting, Sellers reported how the sheriff’s office had more than 2,700 service calls from January 2021 to April 2021, which includes evading arrest, assault on a public servant, vehicle accidents and more.
“The massive amount of call volume we get, of all the varying degrees – from burglaries to vehicle accidents – I asked the court (county judge and four county commissioners present), ‘can you handle that?’” Sleeper said. “My question really is, if they were paid what we are paid, could they handle it? Or would they handle it?”
Sleeper believes the meeting made some headway with the commissioners, in hopes of a little more pay for the law enforcement officers – jailers and dispatchers included.
“The judge did say he was willing to pay the deputies a little more. That’s great, that helps me out a lot, that helps my brothers and sisters out, that helps my families, that helps their families. What about the jailers? What about the dispatchers?” he said.
Sleeper said dispatchers are the true first responders – “they are the ones who answer the phone. They send us. Dispatchers have to sit in a room for 10-12 hours at a time, keeping us alive.”
Jailers, Sleeper said, are the ones who are involved with the criminals after deputies turn them in.
“Jailers are in there with them 10-12 hours a day,” Sleeper said. “They have to deal with them all day, every day. We simply deal with them for a couple of hours.”
Red River County Judge LD Williamson said the county could increase the wages for deputies, however, the other departments would go without, “because we don’t have the money.”
“I would not sit here and try to go up ten cents on taxes for something like that,” Williamson said. “We will work within what we’ve got to try and get you what we can, but we’ll not be able to give everybody at the sheriff’s department a $2 an hour raise.”
With a room filled with supportive community members, Sellers said, “I think everybody’s here today because the citizens wouldn’t mind paying a little more to help out their law enforcement.”
For comparison, starting pay for a Paris Police Officer is $41,349 per year, or about $21.50 an hour in a 40-hour workweek – about $8 more than Red River County deputies.
“It goes without saying, we need to be paid more,” Sleeper said. “But so do they. The jailers, and the dispatchers, they matter too, if not more.”
The Red River County Commissioners are expected to hold another meeting within two weeks for further discussion, and Sellers asks for more community support during the upcoming meeting.
Photo by Texas Municipal Police Association