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Sheriff's Offices Have Tough Time Finding, Keeping Deputies

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — Sheriff's offices across the state are having trouble finding deputies. They are having an even tougher time keeping them.

After a six-year stint in the Marines, Johnston County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Coats, 26, returned home to patrol the rural backroads where he grew up.

Despite the 12-hour shifts, nights and weekends, he still loves the challenge of the job and the people he helps protect. However, he sees plenty of co-workers leaving law enforcement for greener and safer pastures.

"Personally, you can't blame them for doing that. It might be easier on the family," he says. "There's a lot easier work out there that pays a lot more."

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell says he feels lucky. He is down just three deputies, but he is struggling to find qualified replacements for $26,000 a year.

"In today's job market, you can get a job 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working Monday through Friday, not out here all night and every weekend for a lot more money than that," Bizzell says.

Other sheriffs in the state are feeling a shortage of deputies.

Cumberland County pays deputies $27,000 in base salary. With a new jail set to open next year, they will need more than 100 new employees to run it. Wake County pays beginning deputies $28,000 a year. They are currently down 10 certified officers.

"You have to love what you're doing to do it. You can't do it for the money," Coats says. "If it was for the money, they'd have to pay us a lot more. I know that."

Sheriff Bizzell and other top cops are pushing to pay deputies more money. While many deputies leave their jobs for state law enforcement positions, most are leaving law enforcement altogether.