Smithfield Police, like many other law enforcement agencies, struggle to keep up with the demand for bilingual officers. Police Chief Keith Powell hopes by offering an incentive for officers fluent in Spanish it will help attract and maintain bilingual officers.
The Smithfield Town Council approved a request by Chief Powell for a five percent salary increase for any officer proficient in Spanish. Powell said the goal is to bridge the gap and build trust between Smithfield Police and the Hispanic community.
“The town’s Hispanic population continues to grow and at this time the agency does not have an officer that is fluent in Spanish. According to 2020 census the total population for the Town of Smithfield was 11,292 and the Hispanic population was 21.1 percent. This would be an effort to bridge the gap between the Smithfield Police Department and the Latino Community, which has been an ongoing effort. This will be another step to assist with recruitment and retention of officers,” Chief Powell told The Johnston County Report.
Smithfield Police have a base starting salary of $42,416.92. If the officer is bilingual they qualify for a $2,120.85 increase, or a starting salary of $44,537.77.
Selma Police have a starting salary of $42,454 but do not pay a bonus for bilingual officers, Chief W.M. Thomas said.
Four Oaks Police pay $35,535. Chief Stephen Anderson said there is nothing in place for additional incentives for bilingual patrol officers.
Benson Police start at $41,430. Chief Greg Percy said they offer a $2,500 sign on bonus that requires a two-year employment commitment. The department does not have a bonus program for bilingual officers but it is being considered in the future, along with compensation for advanced degrees and prior military service.
Clayton Police start new officers at $45,404 and offer a $1,000 incentive for those who are fluent in Spanish.
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office pays newly hired deputies $45,958.72. There is an opportunity for a 3 percent incentive for bilingual officers.
Chief Powell said the goal in Smithfield is to have a bilingual officer on every shift.