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McLean County sheriff’s deputies are 'smiling' after approving a new contract to end a long stalemate

McLean County Sheriff's Office police car
WGLT file photo
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A McLean County Sheriff's Office squad car is parked in front of the sheriff's offices.

McLean County sheriff's deputies could soon have a new contract after working without one for 15 months.

Sheriff's deputies have overwhelmingly approved a new four-year contract that would give them 3% annual pay raises, dating back to January 2021.

“When you have two sides and one side is trying to protect the (county’s) interests and one side is trying to better their wages, sometimes it just takes a while to get through everything,” said Cory Wills, president of McLean County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 176.

Willis said the FOP vote was 33-2 in favor of the contract with one abstention, while two members unable to vote.

The new contract requires McLean County Board approval. The board's finance committee is scheduled to consider it on April 6, with the full board voting on April 14.

According to the FOP, the new contract would put the starting base salary for sheriff's deputies at about $60,500. Wills said the contract also front loads holiday pay for deputies and ensures each of them the full $1,000 bonus the county approved for all essential employees who worked during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Wills said the contract also should help address staff shortages through a new lateral program that makes it easier to hire officers from other departments. Officers with up to five years of law enforcement experience would start at the salary of a five-year officer, though their seniority would not transfer, he said.

Wills said he believes the contract also will keep officers from leaving to work for other law enforcement agencies.

“The morale has increased drastically here in the last week. A lot of guys felt this was a great contract and that this was going to pass,” Wills said. “I’ve seen a lot of smiles here lately, that’s for sure.”

More police departments have tried to hire officers from other agencies partly due to a national shortage caused by multiple factors, including increased concerns about officer safety and increased calls for police reforms.

The contract comes after a lengthy negotiation, following the expiration of the previous contract on Jan. 1, 2021. Last year, sheriff’s deputies used social media and yard signs to sway public opinion in their quest for better pay and benefits.

Wills credited Sheriff Jon Sandage for intervening to help get county administration's approval.

"I give a lot of credit to county (administration) for listening to our concerns and understanding that to recruit and retain, we had to get a better salary," said Sandage, adding the department has seen a spate of deputy defections over the last two years to other police agencies that pay better.

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Updated: March 31, 2022 at 4:05 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include comment from McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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