Pay increase for DeKalb County first responders

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 12:25 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2022 at 1:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - First responders in DeKalb County are about to see an increase in their paychecks.

The county’s CEO just announced they’ll now be the highest paid in the state of Georgia.

Sworn police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs will be getting a 6.5% increase in their annual salaries. For perspective, that means police recruits will go from getting $47,000 a year to $50,500. Firefighters will go from $43,500 a year to $46,500. There will also be $3,000 hiring incentives for the fire and police departments. Those will all begin on Oct. 1.

Much of the money to pay for the increases will come from the $73 million the county recently received from the American Rescue Plan.

“It’s too little too late if they don’t make a very large, bold move, 20% or more, and remove the chief or we’re just going to continue to lose officers,” said Jeff Wiggs, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Wiggs says morale is the lowest he’s seen in his 35-year career.

“Although we greatly appreciate the raise, it’s just a Band-Aid to the problem and won’t fix the retention issue. We’re dealing with low staffing, high call volume, and a salary that still requires most guys to work a second job. This job is extremely taxing on the body and mind. Firefighters roll with the punches, we make it work for the citizens’ safety but our firefighter’s health and safety are taking the back seat as a result,” said Wyatt Perdomo, a member of the DeKalb County Professional Firefighters Union.

“I respect criticism but it’s not the critic that counts, it’s the people who count, the people who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. The governing body has invested millions of dollars in the last five years in salary compensation,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond.