Horry County leaders defended their support of the police department Tuesday, pointing out they had raised salaries and added positions at the agency over the last five years.
Their comments came after a backlash to a presentation HCPD Chief Joe Hill gave last week to the council’s public safety committee. During that presentation, Hill, who was hired last year, said his agency has lost officers because of its salaries. The agency has more than 20 vacancies and has struggled to keep the positions filled.
Those comments, which were reported by local media, led to criticism of council members on social media, including allegations the council wasn’t doing enough to fund the department, chairman Mark Lazarus said.
“I took great offense to it,” he said.
On Tuesday, Lazarus read a list of improvements the council had made at the police department over the last five years.
- The department’s budget had increased by an average of nearly 7 percent per year
- Council approved the addition of 19 positions over the five-year period
- Police salaries have increased since fiscal year 2013, including a 5 percent increase two years ago that council members funded with a property tax increase.
Lazarus said the data indicates county leaders’ backing of the HCPD.
“Is it perfect? No,” Lazarus said. “Would we like to do more? Absolutely.”
After the chairman’s comments, Hill thanked council members for their support and said he appreciated their willingness to look at the department’s needs.
“It takes time to change the direction of a ship this big,” he said.
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