Experienced cops to be paid more

Published 1:44 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Vicksburg Police Department will have more money to offer recruits with previous law enforcement experience and a higher education, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided Monday.

On Police Chief Walter Armstrong’s recommendation, the board approved paying recruits an extra 20 cents per hour for every year of experience they bring to the force — with a maximum $2 per hour in additional pay beyond the base wage of $13.65 per hour. Armstrong said the idea had been kicked around with former Human Resources Director Lamar Horton, who was fired in December, but had not previously come before the board.

Additionally, recruits with an associate’s degree will get an extra 72 cents per hour over the base wage, while those with a bachelor’s will get $1.15 more. A master’s degree will get a new recruit an extra $1.44 per hour. Those pay add-ons have been in effect since 2002, however, until Monday recruits had to get a year of experience under their belts in Vicksburg before getting the extra pay for their education. It will now be tacked onto their pay the day they join the Vicksburg force.

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“I’m trying to recruit officers who are already certified and well-educated to come and work for my department,” Armstrong told the board. “I need more than $13.65 an hour to offer them.”

With the adjustments approved Monday, an officer who comes to Vicksburg with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience will start at $17.09 per hour.

Armstrong said the department currently has about 80 officers, and is four shy of reaching full force capacity for the current budget. He said the new pay incentives should also help retention within the department.

“We have a lot of officers who leave the police department after we have trained them,” he said. “We have very few with experience and education who actually come over to Vicksburg (from other departments).”

Armstrong said the city pays approximately $3,000 per officer for training at the state police academy, and also pays their salaries while they train.

Mayor Paul Winfield vowed last month to freeze all non-merit raises of the city’s approximately 525 employees, but said the pay incentives for the police department were worth offering if they can attract better officers.

“We need to make our department as attractive as we can to get the most qualified talent out there,” he said. “Our goal is to have the best police department in the state, and this policy will help us get there.”

The base pay for sergeants in the police department is $18.05 per hour, $19.98 for lieutenants and $21.91 for captains. In February, the department promoted five officers to sergeant — a first after nearly a decade with no promotions in the department — which Armstrong said was also done, in part, to attract new recruits and aid in retention.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman was absent from Monday’s meeting, leaving Winfield and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield to approve the increases.