Aiken Public Safety addresses turnover at council meeting

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, Jan. 13, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Standing before the Aiken City Council, Aiken Department of Public Safety Director Charles Barranco and his command staff had a number of tough questions to answer.

The members of council, in particular Councilman Dick Dewar, wanted to know why Aiken Public Safety's turnover rate is so high.

In recent calculations, Dewar determined the turnover rate to be nearly 36% since the beginning of 2012. Preliminary data that Dewar released says, since 2012, 10 Public Safety employees retired, 15 left the department voluntarily, 2 were fired, and one was killed in the line of duty. Of the 15, three left Aiken for the North Augusta Department of Public Safety. According to Dewar's calculations, even with the turnover, 51% of the remaining sworn officers have 10 or more years of experience. However, Dewar also found that 31% of the officers have been with the city for less than two years.

During Monday night's meeting, Chief Barranco said he'd be open to changes like adding employee surveys, but he maintained that the level of service his department provides hasn't faltered, even with newer officers.

"You know, what the young officers don't bring in experience, they bring with enthusiasm," he says. "It's an honor to serve with the Aiken Department of Public Safety."

However, Barranco says he would support better wages for his employees.

City Manager Richard Pearce says the average starting salary is $35,800 for Aiken Public Safety, $31,150 for South Carolina Highway Patrol, $32,500 for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, and approximately $43,000 for the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.

Pearce says he's cautious to give Aiken Public Safety a raise, so as to avoid playing favorites with city departments. City Council remained noncommittal on the issue as well.

Toward the end of Monday night's meeting, Dewar suggested possible discussion of splitting Aiken Public Safety into individual police and fire departments. The idea wasn't discussed further by council.

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