Local News

To fight turnover, Durham council looks at raises for police, firefighters

Posted January 19, 2017 6:47 a.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2017 6:55 p.m. EST

— Durham police officers and firefighters are making less than their counterparts in neighboring cities, according to a recent study. On Thursday the Durham City Council discussed a possible pay raise for both groups.

While no vote was taken today, all comments from the council were very positive and supportive of the work that police and firefighters do.

"It's hard to put a price on policing these days," Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden said.

But many believe the pay for police and firefighters in Durham is too low. The Durham City Council looked at a plan that would give both groups a pay raise.

"We want the city of Durham to be able to fair with the best of them," she said."

Police Chief CJ Davis said the lower pay in Durham, relative to neighboring cities, makes it tough to recruit and retain.

"It's been very difficult.," she said. "We have about 64 vacancies, which is pretty serious for our agency. "

Right now , police and fire recruits in Durham get paid $33,000. Under the new plan, that would jump to around $37,000 for police officers and $34,000 for firefighters.

Retired interim Durham police chief Larry Smith said his time in the department showed him this pay increase is crucial.

"I've spoken with some of the officers who have left for smaller towns," he said. "There's a few things they talk about. The first thing is the pay. Then they talk about the workload. They're making more money and working a lot less."

Durham Police recently approved some incentives, including a one-time hiring bonus of $5,000 and up to $3,000 in relocation fees. The relocation funds are also available to current staff in an attempt to get more officers living in the city they serve. The Durham City Council is expected to vote on the pay plan at its next meeting in February. According to city officials, the proposed pay plan would cost the city $1.8 million for 6 months of implementation.