Pine Bluff police administrators are continuing their effort to find more money for officer salaries. They took their case to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday morning to no avail but did get approval for an increase in the clothing allowance and in vacation time.
“We’re asking you to consider our salary proposals,” Assistant Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant said. “They will not get us to a place where other departments are, but at least we will be more competitive.”
In December, Police Chief Ivan Whitfield brought the subject up at a meeting of the committee, but because only Alderwoman Thelma Walker was there, no official action could be taken.
At that time, Whitfield provided information showing that since Jan. 1, 20 officers had given their two-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.
On Wednesday, during the meeting, Sergeant said he had received a text message that Little Rock was asking about three additional officers, including a “junior sergeant.”
“We’re not able to pay salaries to be able to get the right people in, so we’ve had to bring in some people that were questionable,” he said. “We want to be able to make sure we can get the right people to do the job the right way.”
A pay scale proposed by Whitfield would increase the pay of every rank up to assistant chief, with particular emphasis on patrol officers. That proposal calls for probationary officers to receive $34,000, which would increase to $35,000 in their first and second years, $36,500 in years three and four and maxing out at $48,000 after five years of service.
Sergeants would see their pay go from $49,000 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.
By comparison, Hot Springs pays patrol officers from $35,381 to $38,298 with four years experience, from $40,213 to $43,527 for officers first class and $45,704 to $49,472 for corporals. Police officers in Jonesboro start at $34,500 before increasing to $36,200 after a year and $37,500 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.
Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said losses from his department frequently occur with firefighters who have a few years of experience, citing the example of a Pine Bluff firefighter who held the rank of lieutenant but moved to another department and as an entry-level firefighter is being paid the same as when they held the lieutenant rank in Pine Bluff.
Regarding the clothing allowance, aldermen Bill Brumett and Lloyd Holcomb Jr., approved a motion by Committee Chairwoman Alderwoman Thelma Walker to increase the annual allowance from $600 to $800. Since that is the same amount fire and emergency services personnel receive, a proposed ordinance reflecting the increase will be read for the first time when the council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Brumett, who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he will ask the committee to try and find the money to pay for the increase.
On the subject of increasing vacation time, police are asking the current 20-day maximum for officers with more than 20-years of experience be given an extra day up to their 24th year on the job. The 20-day vacation was based on a 20-year retirement system. Officers currently retire after 28-years.
That proposed ordinance will also be read for the first time Tuesday.