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Sheriff seeks raises for staff

Clee Atkinson.jpg

Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TARBORO — The old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed then try, try again” could apply to the ongoing plea of Edgecombe County’s top lawman to the county’s governing board for more pay for his deputies, investigators, jailers and support staff.

During Monday’s Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Sheriff Clee Atkinson, with numerous personnel seated behind him in the audience, asked the panel to honor the men and women of his team “by giving them the salary that shows appreciation at an amount that’s respectable and competitive.”

“Our sheriff’s office works 24/7, 365 days a year, good or bad weather, holidays, no holidays,” Atkinson said. “So please don’t continue to allow them to have to seek employment outside of this county.”

Atkinson noted most of his personnel grew up in and still want to continue to live in Edgecombe.

Atkinson in May and in November called for the commissioners to approve pay raises for his personnel.

He has stated his office has lost out to other agencies in recruiting as well as in retention rates.

Additionally, he has stated the starting pay for an Edgecombe deputy is $30,488 a year, the lowest among law enforcement agencies in the Twin Counties.

“Our Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office staff continues to make me proud and to lead ‘em. I’m really proud of the men and women of the sheriff’s office that’s sitting behind me,” Atkinson told commissioners on Monday. “Their dedication and willingness to work long hours, complete tasks, is second to none in this region, if not in the state.” 

He said he keeps bringing up the subject of a need for greater pay p because of personal issues impacting his team.

On Nov. 9, he said, one of his detention supervisors was faced with a son being housed in the Edgecombe County jail. He said she notified him of the situation and he decided to locate the son elsewhere.

“But in the meantime, that’s the hurt and pain and the stress that’s going on within the Edgecombe Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

Then on Dec. 3, he said, a dispatch supervisor answered an emergency 911 call, which came from the supervisor’s father, who said the supervisor’s mother had suffered a heart attack. He said he advised the supervisor to go home.

On Dec. 10, the sheriff’s birthday, he said he received a phone call saying a daughter of one of his deputies was inadvertently involved in a vehicle wreck with another deputy.

He also said not only is his office dealing with internal matters, “We’re housing some of the worst criminals across the state in the Edgecombe County jail,” especially when dealing with inmates with cases pending in the federal court system.

“And I don’t think the citizens understand what we do,” he said.

Atkinson also told commissioners that due to the three slayings this weekend in Rocky Mount, his office has been asked to partner with the Rocky Mount Police Department and the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

He said this includes speaking to residents about building bonds in the Rocky Mount area, removing criminals and reducing crime.

Atkinson called the three homicides in the city in less than a week disheartening.

“So we’ve been requested to come in. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m bringing the most elite group to the city of Rocky Mount, but the most underpaid group, to the city of Rocky Mount,” he said.

He said as sheriff, “I do recognize that we can all do better to improve the quality of life for the citizens here in Edgecombe County. I do recognize that.”

However, he said, “Public safety is key” to allowing the county’s citizens to live freely.

Board Chairman Leonard Wiggins told Atkinson he and his fellow commissioners intend to do everything for the sheriff’s office as well as all other departments as the county can do so as revenue increases.

“And we do see some increases,” Wiggins said. “We’re certainly going to look at your request as the manager looks at the total budget.”

Wiggins added that although Edgecombe is presently hard-pressed financially, “It is our intent, based on the review of the budget, to honor every request that we can — that is, we hope that we can.”

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