New Horry County Police Chief says he’ll fight for fair compensation in department

Joseph Hill Photo

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Newly Hired Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill says he’s working to create better morale and motivation in the department, and one way plans to do that is by working to get officers higher salaries.

The Fraternal Order of Police says the Horry County Police Department is extremely short staffed because people leave for better pay and better morale.

It’s a problem we’ve told you about for months now, and the new police chief says he’s ready to work with council to fix it.

“We as an agency also have to understand we have to get some wins on the board,” said Hill.

In a department facing several changes, Hill says he’s ready to rebuild.

“The community is shaken by some of the scandals that have occurred in the agency, and they’ve lost a little bit of trust in the agency. So, we’ve got to regain that trust,” said Hill.

That trust starts inside the department where Hill says he plans to build up morale by working to increase the pay for his officers.

“I don’t want to lose good officers to other agencies. Our salaries are competitive in the region. We could do a better job, and I know the council’s working on that, and I support them whole heartedly,” said Hill.

Right now, a certified officer starting our in Horry County would make about $3,000 less than in Myrtle Beach, $4,000 less than in North Myrtle Beach, and $2,000 less than in Florence County.

County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says pay is something they’ve worked on in the department for years.

“Last year, we gave a 5% raise to all of our class-one officers. We heard there was an issue there with the pay. So, we upped that,” said Lazarus.

Chief Hill says the problem is keeping those officers because right now, the pay for an officer who’s been there for five years is about the same as someone just hired.

“I don’t care if they’ve been here one year or ten years. I look at what they’re doing in their job, and that’s how they should be paid. So, that’s why we went to a merit based system. So, the ones that are doing exceptional jobs are going to get more. The ones that are just getting by are going to get less,” said Lazarus.

The Fraternal Order of Police says that merit based system doesn’t always work, and many officers have not seen a significant raise.

As those officers leave the department, so does the training, experience, and morale, reasons Chief Hill says he plans to fight for fair compensation.

“When these folks feel like they have all the tools necessary to conduct their business, they’ll be feeling better about being with the agency, they wouldn’t want to leave. As a matter of fact, other folks would want to come to Horry County where we’re certified in the state, that’s my goal. I want to be number one in the state and I want to be number one in the nation as far as a model police department,” said Hill.

Lazarus says since he’s been council chair, there’s been a two to three percent raise across the board for every employee in Horry County.

He says they’d love to increase the pay for police officers, but right now, they have to stick within the budget.