Police ask ‘What will council do?’

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

The $50,000 compensation study for the city’s public safety employees will be finished in coming weeks.

Springsted Inc., a Minnesota-based firm that provides financial advisory services to municipalities, is in the final stages of the study, said Dennis Craff, spokesman for the city.

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The study will compare salaries of beginning and experienced police officers in Suffolk with those in neighboring Hampton Roads localities, Craff said. The final report will also include recommendations from one of Springsted’s staff experts, a former Minnesota police chief.

&uot;The study is under way,&uot; Craff said. &uot;The person working on it is still collecting data from other departments.&uot;

Late last year, City Manager R. Steven Herbert told the Suffolk City Council that the study will be used in developing the city’s 2006 operating budget.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, who initially called for the study, said the city staff told him last week the report would be available soon.

&uot;The study is still not complete but I expect to have something in hand very soon,&uot;

Bennett said. &uot;The contents will definitely be used is shaping this year’s budget.&uot;

Joyce Williams, president of the Suffolk Police Officers Association, is cautiously optimistic about the study’s immediate impact on the city’s law enforcement community.

&uot;We anxiously await the results, but remain somewhat skeptical since they have been so long in coming,&uot; Williams said. &uot;The next question is, what will council do with the information and how long is it going to take?

&uot;The waiting game has already cost us too much,&uot; she said. &uot;More than 20 officers – with more than 100 years of experience between them – have left in the last year.

&uot;All for one simple reason: more money.&uot;

Besides getting information from other localities, the consultant has also met with local police officers and firefighters, Bennett said.

The consultant’s report will also include additional information on a proposal by retired firefighter J.R. Lilienthal that the Nansemond-Suffolk Rescue Squad begin billing insurance companies – not individuals – for service, Bennett said. Lilienthal had proposed that part of that revenue stream be earmarked for special raises for the city’s firefighters and police officers.

The compensation study was funded after numerous public safety representatives and local residents aired concerns last year that the Suffolk Police Department had become a training ground for rookie police officers. They said too many experienced officers were leaving for better paying jobs on neighboring police forces.