Quarterly pay hikes for police $28,000

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Merit-based quarterly pay increases approved last week for 52 Vicksburg police officers totaled $28,101.36, an average of $540.41 per officer, according to tallies by the department.

Raises covered the second quarter of 2008 and outpaced the 46 merit-based hikes approved in June that covered the first quarter. Also in June, 3 percent cost-of-living increases were OK’d for the police and fire departments. For the 66-member police force, payroll grew by $43,793.40 for the coming year.

More pay hikes are on the horizon, as departmental evaluations are close to being finalized, Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon said.

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Evaluations are given to officers in all divisions and are graded by department supervisors on an array of categories, including punctuality, appearance and public contact. They are also graded on contact with suspects, O’Bannon said.

Two pools of bonus money are available for officers on top of the $26,550 starting annual salary, one at $5,000 and another at $2,500. Grades dictate the amounts of raises, which are distributed according to the number of high ratings, classed as “exceeding standards.” If an officer is scored at 100 percent in all categories, then the officer receives all of the bonus pool available.

“It is still there until you earn it,” O’Bannon said.

City employees in all other departments face similar, annual performance evaluations that can include physical tests.

“It’s been a very good program,” city human resources director Lamar Horton said. “Those who move rapidly through can earn up to the top of the salary range.”

Division chiefs in the police department, such as traffic and investigations, are graded quarterly by the deputy chief. Evaluations for the two top executive positions, chief and deputy chief, are done annually.

Chief Tommy Moffett said the exams promote accountability and can help “underperforming “officers improve, thus making it worth the extra clerical labor in accounting for the raises.

“It’s strictly a positive tool,” Moffett said. “The whole idea is performance.”

While cost-of-living increases and some overtime comprised Warren County’s $195,290 in additional sheriff’s department spending for 2008-09, additional performance-based hikes tied to a personal fitness program have missed the cut with county supervisors in recent years.

Plans for performance evaluations in other departments and a renewal of the county’s personnel policy was discussed briefly during the previous administration. Support for both eroded when details such as whether raises should be capped and the applicability of random drug tests could not be resolved.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com.