Local News

Pay Linked to High Police Turnover, Raleigh Chief Says

Posted January 15, 2008 2:12 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2008 10:48 p.m. EST

— Chief Harry Dolan said Tuesday he believes a turnover problem within Raleigh's police department is largely related to pay and benefits.

"We have high turnover, and it's very difficult to retain police officers today," Dolan said, speaking before the City Council's Budget and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday.

Out of the 79 officers who left the force last year, Dolan said, 59 resigned – 17 during training, 13 to go to other law enforcement agencies and 29 for unspecified reasons.

Based on his initial assessment of the numbers, Dolan said his experience leads him to believe pay and benefits were a factor. He said it is indicative of a "crisis" law enforcement agencies across the country are facing.

The Raleigh Police Protective Association, a group that looks out for the interests of more than 400 officers, is pitching immediate educational incentives and fitness incentives for officers to deal with the issue.

It wants $1,500 per officer per year for a bachelor's degree and $750 for an associate's degree. (Currently, officers get $700 for a bachelor's degree and $350 for an associate's degree.) Officers who pass a physical fitness test would get an additional $1,000 a year. The increased benefits would cost an estimated $750,000, the RPPA said.

Dolan said he didn't think the RPPA's proposal would solve the problem.

The police department currently has more than 700 officers on a pay scale ranging from $32,000 to $62,000 for a non-ranking officer. It has 58 officer vacancies, he said.

"We have to look at a pay scale that is very competitive for this region of the country," Dolan said. "We're a growing department, and we need to fill these vacancies."

Dolan proposes comparing the pay scale to raise salaries at the lower end so that officers will be more likely to stay.

"My professional opinion is that we should compress the pay scale to make it much more attractive to officers – that they know at Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 – up to say, Year 9 – 'This is where my salary is going to be,'" he said.

Dolan also wants what he calls "lateral entry" for experienced officers moving from one law enforcement agency to the Raleigh Police Department. Although they would be new employees, the newcomers would be paid based on their years of service as officers rather than how long they have worked for Raleigh.

Dolan is expected to give the committee more detailed numbers about the issue next month.