The Fraternal Order of Police is lobbying for better pay for GBI agents and scientists in light of budget cuts that have stripped them of pay increases and reduced their number of agents.
Since 2009 a total of 72 agents and scientists have left the GBI, hitting the state with more than $5 million in training costs, according to a news release from GBI’s FOP.
Jerry Scott of the agency’s Calhoun office, a 28-year veteran, said there are fewer agents now than when he started in 1983.
“We are becoming a training ground,” Scott said.
GBI agents are required to have the same qualifications as an FBI agent, which includes a four-year degree.
And it doesn’t help that Georgia State Patrol troopers are making more money than agents — between $12,000 to $15,000 more.
All the agents are asking for is pay parity, according to the news release.
Speaking to a House committee recently, GBI director Vernon Keenan said the pay gap is affecting morale.
“We’re losing agents going to be traffic cops because they make more money working traffic than they will as a criminal investigator for the state of Georgia,” Keenan said. “We have the best trained criminal investigators in the country. They do complex work. But they’re getting very tired. They’re worn out.”
A salary supplement added in the 2009 budget has been cut from the budget. However, the State Patrol also received a salary supplement in 2008 that has not been cut.
The pay gap has long been a source of frustration for GBI officials. For example, a Georgia State Patrol sergeant earns $58,762, compared to a GBI special agent 3, a similar rank, who earns $43,063.
However, there may be good news on the horizon.
House lawmakers included more than $2.4 million in the budget passed Wednesday to boost the pay of GBI agents and scientists, and the issue will soon be before Senate lawmakers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.