November 03, 2021

SLC raises police pay by 30% to improve recruitment

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash|||| Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash|||| ||||
By Sheena Wolfe

The Salt Lake City Police Department lost 90 police officers last fiscal year, largely due to officers moving to other local police departments where pay was significantly higher, said Police Detective Mick Ruff. He also noted that a 30% pay increase for the SLCPD officers, which passed the Salt Lake City Council in June, is helping to fill the gap.

The pay raises negotiated with the Salt Lake Police Association – nearly 30% for entry-level officers and 12% for senior-level officers – were necessary to attract and retain quality police officers, said SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall at a June press conference.

Prior to the pay increase, entry-level Salt Lake City police officers started at about $21/hour. With the pay raise, that number increases to $26. That’s a change from $44,000/year to over $54,000, said Joe McBride, SLC Police Association president, noting that senior-level officer pay went from about $35/hour to over $39, an annual increase from $73,000 to over $81,000. “We are really happy with this pay increase, and it will do a lot to help overall morale,” McBride said.

Though he acknowledged that the raise is a major recruiting tool that will bring new talent and keep more experienced officers from moving to nearby communities, McBride also expressed concern about other factors impacting recruiting. “Even with the raise, the gap in hiring and retaining qualified police officers will continue to be difficult for a number of reasons including an overall feeling that SLC police officers are not supported by the administration or the community,” Mc Bride said, adding that another problem is that “we are seeing fewer people wanting to become police officers.”

“The exact number of vacancies in the SLCPD is difficult to pinpoint because this number changes weekly,” said Ruff, noting that 22 new officers started at the SLC Police Academy in August and “there are a handful of re-hires and lateral officers who have come back to the department because of the raise.”

Part of the problem with filling the gap, Ruff said, is that it takes 3-5 months to fully screen an applicant and “then ramp-up an academy class.” All newly hired officers, he added, are then placed in a 22-week basic police academy followed by a 14-week field training program, though veteran recruits can be fast-tracked. “A handful of officers come with previous experience from other agencies, and they attend a two-week lateral academy before going to a field training program,” he said.

The SLC Equity in Policing Commission recommended hiring a full-time recruitment officer, which may help close the personnel gap while addressing SLCPD diversity shortfalls. In the meantime, officers are “stressed thin,” said McBride, “and so is the community in many instances.”

Last year, even with the officer deficit, the department fielded 123,000 calls for service, not including officer-initiated activity, said Ruff. Given the volume of calls and need for officers, it’s no surprise that McBride had his own recommendation to help overall morale: hiring a full-time counselor to help officers deal with the inherent stress of the job.

    

Published in Fall 2021