Aldermen studying big police pay hike

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brookhaven aldermen said they’d research and return to thesubject of Police Chief Pap Henderson’s request for a heftypercentage raise for his officers at Monday night’s budget worksession.

“Chief Henderson has asked for a 15 percent raise across theboard, but he does that every year,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner.

The subject of police department salary has been on the tablerecently since city officials are trying to find a way tocounteract what appears to be a recent surge in crime. Hendersonsaid his men are doing their job well, but it’s hard to keep goodofficers when the pay is low.

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Aldermen discussed a pay raise they gave both the police andfire departments in 2007, which attempted to bring the twodepartments to a level competitive with other cities as well aswith each other.

Ward Five Aldermen D.W. Maxwell asked if it were true that firedepartment employees make more money than comparably-rankedofficers in the police department.

Other officials explained that in recent years there has beenmore turnover in the upper ranks of the fire department. This meansthat men who have been at the fire department for shorter periodsof time are making more money than veteran officers at the policedepartment because the promotion structure at the fire departmentmoves faster.

“The chief still has a bunch of positions that are open that hehasn’t hired,” said Maxwell. “He’s got an investigator slot that’sbeen open six or eight months.”

Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes countered that Henderson hasmade a point to say that he wants to make sure he has the right menfor each position.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips said by his estimation, a 15percent raise in the police department alone would cost as much asthe budgeted 5 percent raise among all the rest of the cityemployees.

“I don’t doubt that they need that, putting their lives on theline every day, and the other services they perform, but it wouldbe a budget buster,” he said.

City Clerk Mike Jinks said the police and fire departments areimportant to safety, but on a different note, every department isintegral to the functionality of the city.

“Public safety is very important, but if the water man doesn’tdo his job, everybody on city water would suffer,” he said.

Bumgarner agreed.

“You have seven different city departments, and if you had toput them in order of most important, I’d have to list them all asOne,” he said.

That, the mayor pointed out, is why city officials need to mullraises carefully.

“It’s an issue of morale. You have to be realistic,” he said.”All our employees know that times are tough, and most of them arenot expecting a big raise. If we give one department a big raiseand help their morale, that hurts the morale of the other six.”

Maxwell pointed out that he personally knows at least one personin the police department who was working multiple jobs. Even whenhe received his raise in 2007, he continued to work multiplejobs.

“We all want as much money as we possibly can make,” hesaid.

In addition, Maxwell took exception with money made by officerswho work second jobs with the city school system as securityofficers. But other aldermen told him the city can’t dictate whatkind of second jobs their employees have.

“If this is something they want to make the sacrifice and do,let them,” said Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron. “I don’t have anyproblem with it.”

Jinks said the city has budgeted for all of Henderson’s requestexcept the 15 percent raise. He said he had budgeted money for twonew officers as well as five new patrol cars.

Officials agreed to research the salaries of other like-sizedcities as well as attrition at BPD and return to the issue ofpolice pay. That said, they also discussed other departments’ needsfor higher wages as well.

“Every employee is valuable to this city, and like the mayorsaid, morale,” Bates said. “A lot of people feel like they lovetheir job and the money is second, but a lot of people money isfirst and the love is second.”

Maxwell pointed out that there are veteran city workers who arestill making less than $10 an hour.

“We have to do something sooner or later with the streetdepartment and the water department,” he said. “If you’re notmaking $10 an hour, you’re barely living. You’re not makinganything.”