County sheriff, police debate equal pay for equal work

Since county sheriff’s sergeants had their pay grade classifications increased for first-line supervisors, some members of the Prince William County Police Association think it’s time to even the scale.

“I’m more than happy that these sheriff’s sergeants got that pay raise but our sergeants who have a greater range of responsibility should get an increase as well,” said Jackson Miller, president of the association.

Under a county pay parity policy enacted in 1999, sheriff and police personnel are supposed to get equal pay for equal jobs, said Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen.

In November the Prince William Board of County Supervisors unanimously approved a new sheriff’s deputy position, changing eight sheriff’s sergeants from public safety grade 14 to sheriff first sergeant, grade 15.

The new pay classification brought them in line with police first sergeants, and gave the eight supervisors salary increases ranging from $98 to $423 depending on their years with Sheriff’s Office and previous merit increases.

The total cost of the reclassification was less than $2,000, Stoffregen said.

“We were correcting what we didn’t have right before,” Stoffregen said. “We didn’t have the right title, so people weren’t being compensated adequately.”

Stoffregen said he asked for the reclassification during the budget process in January 2002.

Human Resources Director Cleil Fitzwater recommended the pay plan reclassification in July, noting that the work sheriff’s sergeants do is comparable to that of police first sergeants and adult detention center jail sergeants.

Sheriff’s sergeants are responsible for sheriff’s deputies and sheriff’s master deputies who handle civil process serving, court room and court house security, and fugitive and transportation issues.

“It’s not exactly the same task but it’s the same amount of work and requires the same level of experience and training as (police) road sergeants,” Stoffregen said.

Not so said Miller, who said police sergeants are faced with murderers and other criminals on the streets all day.

In addition he said police sergeants have a much broader job. “They are in charge of a squad of guys who work patrol through half the county,” he said.

Stoffregen said the size of the job is not the issue.

He fought for more than a year for the reclassification which was the result of a study of comparable jobs by the county human resources department.

In October County Executive Craig Gerhart determined that to give sheriff’s sergeants a grade of 15 they would have to be reclassified to first sergeants to correlate with the new grade.

But Miller said sheriff’s sergeants are now making more than first line supervisors in the police department, and his department will have to seek parity.

“People with the same job are getting a step increase higher than the police sergeant,” Miller said. “We want the same increase for police and we will ask for that.”

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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