First, 13WMAZ told you about three Centerville Police officers who were hired despite their histories of workplace discipline.

Then, we showed you how a nationwide officer shortage is leading departments across the state to do the same.

Everyone we asked for this story from the state level on down agreed -- the current law enforcement shortage is a serious problem.

Many agreed on one of the main issues driving it, and where they disagreed was on how to fix it.

To stay competitive with other departments, Byron Police Chief Wesley Cannon says his force needs more money for one specific purpose: higher starting salaries.

P.O.S.T. Deputy Executive Director Ryan Powell agreed.

When asked if low starting pay is one of the biggest issues driving the shortage, he said "without a doubt."

Chief Cannon says funds at the local level are tight, especially in small communities, like Byron.

Starting pay for entry level officers there is $14.72/hour, according to the chief.

"We're a small community, our tax base is only so much," he said.

Byron Mayor Larry Collins says under the right circumstances, help from the state would be welcome.

"Yes, I would like for the state to subsidize officer pay," said Collins.

State Representative Robert Dickey, whose district includes Byron, acknowledged that the state does subsidize public school teacher pay.

"We have traditionally shared in that funding for education in our state," he said. "A local component and a state component."

But, he said law enforcement pay is an issue that should be handled by local leaders.

"It's always been their responsibility and I hate to get the state involved in running things that have always been a local issue," he said.

Warner Robins State Representative Heath Clark, who sits on the public safety committee, agreed.

"The beauty of our system is that local governments get to set their priorities," he said.

Instead of directly funding officers and deputies, Clark touted programs to funnel cash back to local governments through other means like a revamped internet sales tax.

Dickey said he's working on legislation to send more money to the state's mental health and addiction treatment programs, something he believes will take part of the burden off local officers.

Meanwhile, Chief Cannon says for Byron police, a lot of the answer comes down to cash.

"It's harder for an agency like us to stay competitive with the surrounding agencies when their pockets are so much deeper," he said.

Dickey acknowledged the challenge and said he'll take the issue to the statehouse.

"This is prompting me to really go back to Atlanta and start having some other conversations with legislators," he said.

Byron's Mayor Collins said local officials there are working on fitting a police pay raise into next year's budget. Chief Cannon said he's unsure if the state should directly subsidize officer pay or not.

But one thing he's sure of? Help has to come from somewhere.

"I need some kind of help,' he said.

Until something concrete arrives, he and other chiefs and sheriffs just like him across Georgia are left waiting.

"It's really starting to scare me," he said. "You have to have police officers on the streets."


PART 1: Officers were recommended for termination at other agencies. Centerville Police hired them anyway

PART 2: 'If there's not enough of us out there... we can't protect everyone'