HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Police Department just launched a new incentive program that officials hope will attract experienced officers.
The department wants to be able to get experienced officers on the streets, and with more experience there is less training, which ultimately saves the department money.
"We did a cost analysis on hiring an individual and converting them into a police officer versus hiring a person who is already a police officer or certified in the state of South Carolina," said HCPD Interim Chief of Police, Lance Winburn. "The time differential between the salary and benefits is about $17,000, at least."
Winburn said the department is steadily losing officers, which puts a strain on those still working the HCPD.
"We don't have enough officers out there to answer the calls efficiently as we liked to," he said.
Last month, Horry County police reported 17 vacant positions, a number that has since risen to 26, according to Winburn.
One officer left to join the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, two began working for the Myrtle Beach Police Department, one was hired by the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office and another went to the Georgetown Police Department.
"It puts an additional burden on the officers who are out there working, having to answer additional calls that otherwise they wouldn't have to," said Winburn.
He added there is a new incentive program that will allow officers to earn $1,000 if they recruit an officer from other parts of the state. Once hired, the recruit qualifies for a $1,000 signing bonus, and if they live outside the county, the department will pay a $1,000 relocating bonus.
Winburn said they spend a lot of money to pay an individual to convert them into a certified law enforcement officer. However, the department can save nearly $14,000 when they spend $3,000 to get a seasoned officer to join the department.
He said the incentive program is already working, as the department has received four to five applications. Still, Winburn added there is still work that needs to be done to retain the officers once hired.
"Basically, what you're talking about is pay," he said. "You know that is the issue right now, is what we pay Horry County police officers versus what other local agencies pay their officers and that has a lot to do with why we're losing officers."