Sheriff's Employees Push For Higher Pay

They put their lives on the line, but they're not getting the pay raise they've been hoping for.

County commissioners said Thursday night that they would like to give Cherokee County Sheriff Department employees more money, but that would mean giving pay raises to all county employees. Commissioners say they can't afford pay raises across the board.

But, that decision could cause more sheriff's deputies to question their loyalty to the department, says Deputy Anna Outenreath.

Outenreath is the perfect example of how low salaries are taking a toll on county law enforcement officers. She has no desire to leave the department, but says the low pay is causing additional stress in her life.

Anna supports her 10-year old daughter Mariah on $21,300 a year. Often the only time she spends with Mariah is in the morning when they're getting ready for work or school. Mariah's aware of the risk her mother takes as a deputy, and says her mom is getting paid too little for putting her life on the line.

"She has to pay our house note and bills and stuff like that," said Mariah while getting ready to leave for her grandparents house.  "And we just can't survive."

Anna is one of 14 deputies taking to the road by 8 a.m. But like most Cherokee deputies, Anna's day doesn't end at the sheriff's department. "We're having to work two, sometimes three, extra jobs. "I know I've cleaned houses on the side," she says.

Most of the deputies work side jobs as security guards.

The department lost six deputies in January. The department's employee association says last year they had a 50% turnover rate.

A petition is now going around to county voters requesting that Sheriff Department employees get a pay-raise. If the department gets enough signatures, the question of their pay raise will be decided by Cherokee County voters in November. The department already has 2500 signatures, and needs 3600 by mid-august.

"You can never pay an officer enough to go out and put his life on the line<' said Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbel."There's not enough money in Cherokee County or the state of  Texas for that, but we certainly want to let the officers know that we think enough of them to give them a good compensation."

The sheriff's department would like pay raises across the board. That would bring deputies to $27,000 a year.