While all Pine Bluff city employees are getting a 2 percent pay hike beginning in January, Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield has presented a plan to increase the pay of his officers to keep them around.
Whitfield presented his plan to what had been scheduled as a meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee last week, but with only Alderwoman Thelma Walker present, no official action could be taken.
“I pledged to our officers that I would come up with a plan to improve their pay,” Whitfield said. “I got together with the command staff and talked about what we could do and what would be possible.”
Whitfield produced a document showing that since Jan. 1, 20 officers have given their 20-week notice, with six of them going to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, three to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, two more to the University of Arkansas Police Department, and one each to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, State Probation and Parole, Union Pacific Railroad, Alcoholic Beverage Control and Horn Lake, Mississippi.
Of the remaining four, two retired, and the reason for the other two leaving was unknown.
Among his recommendations was that officers with 20 years of service be given an extra day of vacation up until their 24th year of service. Currently, officers receive 20 days of vacation annually, which was based on a 20-year retirement plan. The current retirement plan is 28-years.
Second, Whitfield recommended that the current $600 annual clothing allowance be increased to $1,000 per officer, per year.
“The appearance of our officers is very important, and the clothing allowance has been $600 for many years,” he said.
Finally, Whitfield provided a proposed pay scale that would increase the pay of every rank up to assistant chief, with particular emphasis on patrol officers.
He is proposing that the starting pay of $34,000 for probationary officers be increased to $35,000 in their first and second years, $36,500 in years three and four, and continuing to increase to a maximum of $48,000 after five years of service.
Sergeants would see their pay go from $49,000 annually to $52,000 annually, lieutenants from $53,000 to $56,000, captains from $57,000 to $60,000, deputy chiefs from $64,500 to $67,000 and assistant chief from $72,500 to $75,000.
The salary of the chief is set by the City Council.
Whitfield also included information from other departments on their pay scale, with Hot Springs paying patrol officers from $35,381 to $38,298 with four years experience, from $40,213 to $43,527 for officers first class and from $45,704 to $49,472 for corporals.
Police officers in Jonesboro start at $34,500 before increasing to $36,200 after a year and $37,050 after two years. A patrol officer with 20 years experience is paid $51,600. In North Little Rock, entry-level officers receive $38,600 annually, with that increasing to $40,600 after two years, and $42,600 after four years. A 20-year patrol officer is paid $58,140.
Whitfield also offered suggestions on how to find the money which included refund money from the School Resource Officer Assignment, the five-eighths cent Go Forward Pine Bluff city tax and the three-eighths cent economic development tax that will come off the books in mid-2018.
In order to use the funds from the three-eighths cent sales tax, which was approved by city voters and carried a seven-year sunset clause, voters would have to go back to the polls and vote to extend the tax and change its purpose.
While the Go Forward Pine Bluff plan calls for developing incentive programs to support retention officers, it also calls for increasing tax revenue to provide competitive wages. In addition, the plan would require candidates for police and fire department positions to sign agreements to stay on the job long enough to recover the cost of the training they receive.