MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — With Myrtle Beach police officers now the highest paid in the state, smaller agencies are working to retain the officers they have now, as well as recruit more.

Recruiting police officers has been an issue nationwide, but for smaller departments that don’t have the funding Myrtle Beach does, they say they’re at a disadvantage.

“You might wanna pinch a penny here or there, but you don’t wanna do it with your law enforcement officers,” said Timmonsville Police Chief Thomas McFadden.

As of June, Myrtle Beach Police have the highest starting pay in the state, with a minimum of $47,752 a year. The 12% increase comes from the city’s budget for fiscal year 2023.

While the pay raise will benefit the city’s recruitment and retention, smaller departments worry it could affect theirs.

“It’s putting a lot of pressure on a lot of smaller departments just to maintain, because the younger officers now, they’ll go from department to department, really trying to chase the money,” McFadden said.

McFadden said right now the city is fully staffed with six sworn officers. The starting salary recently increased to $18 an hour.

Other agencies have also increased pay.

“Conway Police Department and City Leaders continue to actively address salaries and benefits to obtain the best candidates and retain current personnel to serve our community,” a statement from the City of Conway reads. “Each year when creating the coming fiscal years budget, salaries of personnel including cost of living and trends amongst our local agencies are taken into consideration. For this fiscal year officers received a 7% cost of living increase.”

Area agencies said that upping salaries is crucial.

“I know that you can’t put a price tag on your life, but to get people to be in this profession and ask them to do what they do on a day to day basis, not knowing what you’re [going to] run into, you’re [going to] have to increase that pay,” McFadden said.

Marion County Sheriff Brian Wallace said the department may need help from the federal government to help fund the more rural departments. The minimum starting salary for an officer at the sheriff’s office is $31,147.

“My citizens have a right to be safe just as those, everyone has a right to be safe, but funding is a big issue for us,” Wallace said.

He said there have been instances where officers leave his department for another because of the money, but that a majority enjoy working for the county.

“But, you know, with the cost of living, the high prices that we see, they have their family and a family to feed also,” he said.

Both Wallace and McFadden said public safety needs to be a top priority. And with increased pay comes more experienced officers, better training and a safer community.

“They need to look across the board and not, you know, fudge on law enforcement or the safety of the community,” McFadden said. “Everybody deserves to sleep at night and not worry about who’s taking care of them.”

McFadden said unless the officer lives in the town, they typically get two years out of them before the officers jump to a higher paying department.