SAMPSON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Law enforcement agencies across the country are facing major challenges in hiring. The Sampson County Sheriff's office said it has been having its own hiring challenges, as over 40 percent of its workers have left dating back to 2021.
"We've struggled to say the least, and 60, 70 employees out of 154 is a lot in two years," said Sheriff Jimmy Thornton.
He said the office is still recovering from the mass exodus. Thornton said the biggest issue was pay, so his office and the Sampson County commissioners boosted detention and patrol officers' starting salaries by $8,000 and $10,000 respectively.
"Pay of course factors into retention," Thornton said. "It certainly factors into recruitment."
However, there are still 12 vacancies across the organization. ABC11 asked Thornton if potential changing public attitudes towards law enforcement after 2020's racial reckoning has hurt his office's hiring efforts.
"Not really. I don't think that factors in," Thornton said. "Now it may factor into those that are looking into the BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training) programs."
He noted that it may be an issue for those considering going into patrol. But overall, the sheriff pointed to concerns over compensation, and the risks of being in law enforcement may scare off some job seekers.
"It's not a glamorous job because you're dealing with individuals that are in custody...It's not unusual for officers to be assaulted," Thornton said.
Due to the vacancies, off-duty officers have been called to fill in with overtime, at least on one occasion, the department had only a third of the deputies it needed to preside over inmates.
"I had to do it because we had over 250 inmates in the jail," Thornton said. "Those inmates back there, it's not a matter of locking them up and throwing the key away. We've got to maintain their safety, too."
The sheriff's office says it hopes to fill its vacancies as soon as possible.