Union asks for more money

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 29, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

A 10 to 15 percent pay raise is needed to keep Suffolk from losing quality police officers to neighboring cities, said local police union representatives.

Since January 2003, the Suffolk Police Department has lost about 22 officers, said Suffolk Detective Joyce Williams, vice president of the Suffolk Police Officers Association, Local 5022.


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On Wednesday, Williams and Sgt. John King, the organization’s president, met with a group of residents concerned about issues facing the city’s police force. Officer retention was one biggest concern brought forth.

The city’s starting salary for a police officer – approximately $27,000 – is about the same as in other neighboring cities. But, the union representatives said, the pay scale does not keep up with other areas as the officer gains seniority.

Consequently, the city has become a training ground for police officers, Williams said. Once they get a little experience, many go on to localities where they can make more money.

They also want the city to:

*Provide funding for 155 police officers, which would add as many as 10 officers to all six department squads.

*Continued implementation of the senior and master police officers program, a career development program that rewards officers who received advanced training and education in their field.

City Council has included funding for the program in the city’s budget for the past three years, King said. Initially, the department officials had indicated that funding would be available for all employees who met the program’s eligibility requirements, he said.

&uot;We were promised every single (qualified) officer would get money,&uot; King said. &uot;We got five token positions this year…after we forced their (the city’s) hand.&uot;

*Provide the same $1.50 per hour incentive pay for detectives and special investigators that field training officers will begin receiving this year.

*Reinstate the police department’s former pay raise system, which gave employees a merit raise based on their evaluations and a cost of living raise.

Mayor E. Dana Dickens III said he believes that City Manager Steve Herbert’s proposed $277 million budget heavily invests in public safety. Herbert proposed giving all city employees a 3.5 percent raise

Herbert’s budget addresses a number of needs and programs brought forth by the police department several weeks ago, Dickens said.

&uot;We listen to what the police department said. I believe the city manager had addressed a good amount of it in this budget and has made progress toward the issues of police department.

&uot;This particular budget, which is pretty tight, can’t do everything that everybody wants,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;We would like to be able to give everybody more money but there has to be fiscal constraints.&uot;