MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Marlboro County Council approved a $2,400 annual increase in the base salary for deputies Tuesday night.

Interim Sheriff Larry McNeil asked the council for pay raises for his deputies and detention center officers at that meeting. Ron Munnerlyn, Marlboro County Administrator, said this increase is a continuation of efforts to make salaries competitive whenever possible.

McNeil took over after after he was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster in December. Former Sheriff Charles Lemon was suspended after a grand jury indicted him for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and misconduct in office. Those charges are for his alleged involvement in the unlawful tasing of an inmate at the county’s detention center. Since taking over, McNeil is already making changes.

“In the past, this county has worked with one or two deputies working at night,” McNeil said. “That’s it. One or two deputies working at night. That’s not safe. It’s not good for the public.”

McNeil told county council that he has had to put three to four deputies on nights to address that issue. He said since making that change, deputies have stopped break-ins as they were happening.

McNeil stressed the issues of staff shortages and old equipment — like laptops and body cameras — to the council as to why his department needs more money.

“The docket station that was being used — the hard drive was damaged and evidently because the hard drive was damaged they decided to obviously just store it as opposed to just getting it repaired,” he said.

He said the department is budgeted for 31 sworn officers but currently only has 24. McNeil said the department did get a raise last February, before he was with the sheriff’s office, but he’d like to see them get another raise.

Council also approved funding for a $2,000 sign-on bonus with hopes of attracting new deputies.

“We’re going to ask that they work for two years for us,” McNeil said. “A thousand when you sign on and a thousand a year later in an effort to encourage people to want to come here.”

McNeil says deputies swore an oath to serve and protect the people in their community so he will fight for those that work alongside him.

“I really want to thank these officers,” McNeil said. “I really want to thank them for staying here and hopefully getting through this storm and I just want to thank God for giving us all this opportunity to do what we do.”

McNeil also said he and staff are working towards community policing to build a better relationship with the very people they are serving and protecting.