- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - A northern Indiana sheriff is asking local officials to lift a pay freeze that took effect during the Great Recession so he can retain employees.

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers says low wages in his department have prompted employees to leave in droves, and he fears the continued departures will affect services if he can’t increase starting pay.

Dozens of employees have left in recent years for jobs at factories, fast food restaurants and other law enforcement departments in the area, said Rogers, who blames a 2008 decision to freeze raises. The result is that wages at the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department are now among the lowest in the region.

“For the last five years we’ve not been able to keep up,” Rogers told The Elkhart Truth (http://bit.ly/1j9rElZ ). “That complicates issues when our public expects the sheriff's department to be at a level of service and provide them with professionalism in responding to calls and violent situations.”

Rogers has asked the Elkhart County Council to amend the ordinance so he can offer competitive pay. The council has approved the request for corrections officers and patrol officers. But Rogers still has to craft a new pay structure and request increases for senior employees and other positions.

Rogers said the department has already begun requiring residents to report non-violent crimes online to free up time for officers. He fears that without approval for higher wages, he’ll have to cut key services.

“My main concern is to run the jail and to protect the citizens as much as I possibly can, but I can’t do it all myself,” Rogers said.

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Information from: The Elkhart Truth, http://www.elkharttruth.com