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Sheriff's Department upgrades ranks

November 15, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The ranks of 41 Washington County Sheriff's Department employees were upgraded without salary increases recently in a move Col. Doug Mullendore said will bolster the department's arguments for higher salaries and an expanded force.

The department's rank structure had not been updated in about 40 years, Mullendore said, leaving employees with ranks such as first sergeant that were not recognized by other police agencies in the state.

"It brings us more in line with a modern police agency," he said, adding that the old structure was more like a military rank structure. "The first sergeant rank is not necessarily a criminal justice rank."

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Corporals were promoted to sergeants; sergeants were promoted to lieutenants; first sergeants were promoted to captains; lieutenants were promoted to majors; and Mullendore, the department's chief deputy, was promoted to colonel.

He said that the change is also a "morale booster." Shift supervisors, for example, had lower ranks than shift supervisors in other parts of the state but were performing the same jobs, he said.

Now that the ranks are the same as those used in other counties, Mullendore said, "when a salary review is done for our deputies here, it allows for an apples and apples comparison instead of an apples to oranges" comparison.

"It makes it easier for them to compare a lieutenant to a lieutenant," he said.

The salary disparity is concerning, he said.

In the past three years, the department has lost more than 50 employees to higher-paying jobs.

The department has 219 employees, he said.

The starting salary for a deputy in Washington County is about $30,000. Deputies in Frederick County get paid about $10,000 more to start, he said.

"There are a lot of agencies around us that are paying a lot more," he said.

The high turnover is also concerning, he said. It takes about one year - from the time someone is hired to the time they finish training, including the police academy and a field training program - before a deputy can patrol the roads on their own, he said.

"It's imperative for the County Commissioners to look at that: When you lose employees, there's that cost of going through the training process," he said.

Mullendore said he's not "expecting anything" from the County Commissioners, but hopes that the pay differences, with like rank structures, will help highlight the need for higher salaries.

Upgrading the ranks will allow more room for growth, he said.

"The agency is going to experience growth as the county experiences growth," he said.

A supervisor can only effectively watch over between five and seven people, he said. When more deputies are added, more supervisors must be added, he said.

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