ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Sworn officers with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department will see a 12% rise in their annual pay starting in 2024.

Thursday, the Allen County Council unanimously approved an 8% salary boost effective Jan. 1 for sworn officers.

That’s on top of the 4% cost of living raise that all county employees will receive next year.

The 12% hike puts department pay on “equal footing” with the Indiana State Police and the Fort Wayne Police Department, agencies that recently effected pay boosts.

Chief Deputy Gary Grant, Allen County Sheriff’s Department (r) and A.J. Pape, Lt. Officer of Professional Standards at the Allen County Council meeting Thursday.

“Getting the raise that we received today from Council on this 8% was huge,” Gary Grant, Chief Deputy at the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, said just after the monthly council meeting. “That’s going to keep our staff staying in the jail and wanting to promote from within and staying with the county.”

The new base salary for a county sworn officer will be more than $71,000, Grant said, who appeared in front of Council with A.J. Pape, ACSD’s Lt. officer of professional standards. That’s compared to about $70,000 for the Indiana State Police and about $76,000 for the FWPD.

The boost is expected to help retain confinement officers at the Allen County Jail who have been lured to other agencies by higher pay. Confinement officers will now start at a base pay of close to $50,000 per year with the 4% cost of living raise and look forward to getting hired as sworn officers, since it’s the sheriff’s policy to hire from within.

“The starting pay for the jail, coming in as an 18-year-old candidate with a high school GED diploma is $49,000 and that includes full county benefits, gym membership, hazard pay, a shift differential, all of those things that go on top of the $49,000,” Pape said.

The sheriff’s department has been losing about a half dozen confinement officers every year because of the pay differential at other agencies.

“We’re not losing the officer once they swear on,” Grant said. “It’s in our jail. Every employee in that jail is a sheriff’s department employee and if the pay is so much higher to go to Fort Wayne city or the Indiana State Police, you can’t blame these young kids for taking that kind of salary and moving on to a different agency.

“We need to be able to compete with those agencies and offer a salary that keeps them loyal to the county,” Grant added.

The Council also approved hiring 18 more confinement officers that would bring the total to 172. Grant said the department hopes to hire them all next year, a number closer to what a federal judge ordered to comply with the outcome of a federal lawsuit filed January 2020 by the Indiana ACLU and Allen County inmates claiming inhumane conditions due to understaffing and overcrowding.

“We need the proper people to work in the jail,” said Grant, adding that the environment is “terrible” at the jail. “They have given us a hazard bonus for every employee that stays a year there and every year after that they will continue to get that hazard bonus.”

The Allen County department is one of the highest paying sheriff departments in the confinement division in the state, Grant said. The department has pushed hard to attract candidates through radio campaigns and social media, Pape said. The department has a social media coordinator who has increased community engagement events like National Night Out.

“We have a ton of cool resources to show off, SWAT team, K-9, all these things and opportunities that young kids that want to get into law enforcement see this and think, ‘man I want to get in this’,” Pape said. Using the website, Indeed, has been useful to recruit candidates.

“We are getting a new jail. That’s going to be huge. The environment that the inmates and officers are working in now is not good. The new jail is going to be outstanding. I’m hoping within four or five years that jail’s going to be constructed and we’ll have a great environment for these employees to be in,” Grant said.