County moves to combine Sheriff’s Office forensics unit with W-S Police Department’s
Sheriff’s Office also requests more pay and staff to combat high turnover and understaffing
BY TODD LUCK
Forsyth County commissioners approved consolidating the forensic services of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office with the Winston-Salem Police Department during its Monday, May 9 meeting.
Currently, the WSPD has 38 non-sworn staff and the Sheriff’s office has five sworn staff in their forensic units. Under the agreement, the WSPD Forensics Unit will add five non-sworn positions paid for by the County and, along with its normal duties, will provide forensic support outside the city limits, excluding Kernersville. After the first year, cost sharing will be determined by how much work is done inside the City versus outside the City limits. The entire Forensic Service Unit will be on the second floor of the Beaty Public Safety Center on Patterson Avenue when renovations of that space are complete. This will free up the former sheriff’s administration building on West Third Street, a site that SciWorks and the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem have expressed interest in using as a new joint location.
It’s the latest in a series of jointly funded law enforcement functions by the City and County including evidence management, arrestee processing at the Forsyth County Detention Center, and an indoor firearms training facility.
This latest measure will save the County $94,000. “This is another step in the right direction,” said County Commissioner Walter Marshall.
The commissioners also heard a budget request for the Sheriff’s office last week during their Thursday, May 5 briefing. Sheriff Bill Schatzman told commissioners his office has two big needs: more staff to deal with the increased demand on sheriff services and “competitive and reasonable compensation” to “recruit and retain good employees.”
“No law enforcement agency can protect its community without enough people to do the work,” he said. “The people who do the work must be motivated; they must be motivated because they feel valued.”
Schatzman asked for $1.5 million dollars in salary adjustments to make pay competitive with other law enforcement agencies. He asked for incentive pay for officers in SWAT, the detention center’s special response team, K-9 units and field training. He also asked for incentive pay for education for all qualified personnel. Both are common incentives for law enforcement agencies, he said.
Schatzman asked for compensation for sworn and detention personnel be revisited to counter high turnover and vacancies that are costly in training new officers and in overtime paid to compensate for the lack of staff.
For new staff, he asked for 24 full-time and one part-time new positions, which would cost about$1.8 million, including eight officers for patrol to address increased calls for service, five narcotics investigators, three court bailiffs, two investigators for the joint FBI Safe Streets task force and four civil deputies to help with the backlog on child support cases. Non-sworn positions are an office assistant for the “dramatic increase” in recent years in pistol purchase and concealed carry permit requests, a public information officer and a part-time position to deal with accreditation paperwork.
The issues the Sheriff’s office has with competitive pay and retention are similar to the ones that the WSPD brought before the Winston-Salem City Council last year. The City took action increasing sworn police pay across the board to get officer wages closer to market.