17 of 72 officers take optional test to win annual bonus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

[5/13/03]Vicksburg police officers don’t take full advantage of the department’s new merit-based pay raises and some are losing bonuses earned last year instead of retaking optional tests.

Of the department’s 72 officers, only 17 took the physical fitness test two weeks ago to be eligible for up to a $900-a-year bonus. Ten other officers had their pay reduced because they either opted not to take the test or did not score high enough.

“Some did it last time and decided they just didn’t want to do it this time,” said Police Chief Tommy Moffett. “It’s strictly an incentive. They don’t have to do it.”

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Under the new merit system, patrol officers are eligible to earn up to $6,418 annually above the base pay of $24,582. Officers are graded on performance in 20 areas including grooming, attendance, knowledge, quality of written reports, initiative and suspect contact.

They are also eligible for additional pay incentives including physical fitness, continuing education and other areas. Since the new pay scale began last year, the average base pay for patrol officers has gone up from $23,867 to $26,040, although on average officers are making less due to a reduction in overtime.

Shortly after taking office nearly two years ago, Mayor Laurence Leyens pledged to make Vicksburg’s police officers the highest paid in the state, setting a goal of $31,000.

He said that even if officers aren’t taking full advantage of the merit-based pay system, it’s working

“At the end of the day, the accountability for the officers is in the paycheck ,” Leyens said. “They’re the highest paid officers in the state if they choose to be.”

The physical fitness test that is part of the incentive pay package is based on standards set by the state that all new officers must pass. Officers are given bonus pay based on how well they score on the test given their age in four areas.

For example, a 21-year-old who does 62 push-ups, runs a mile and a half in 12 minutes, passes a flexibility test and an agility run in 17 seconds would get 100 percent of the $900 annual pay. An officer who doesn’t do as well, would be eligible for a percentage of the bonus based on how well he did on the test.

Of the 17 who took the test, all passed, but not all earned 100 percent of the additional pay, Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon said. The test is offered twice each year, but officers can only take it once a year.

O’Bannon said he called several officers who took the test last time to let them know about the testing date this year. He said he did not know why the six did not want to take the test again.

The test will be offered again in the fall.