Jackson city officials to study pay raises for veteran officers

Jackson city officials to study pay raises for veteran officers
Jackson Police Department (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson city officials say the time for talking is over when it comes to giving veteran JPD officers a pay raise.

At a meeting on Monday, officials with the Lumumba administration agreed to conduct a job analysis, the first step needed to determine how a pay raise could be given.

“We will be happy to look at salary structures and make a proposal to the council that fits within our budget and that keeps us fiscally sound, and move forward from that point,” said Safiya Omari, Chief of Staff for Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

The personnel and finance departments will now look at what officers in similar-size cities make, determine pay raise amounts and look at how much those pay raises would cost the city. From there, the administration would take a recommendation to the council.

It was not clear when that data compilation would be completed. However, an official from personnel said, “We’ll get started on it as soon as possible.”

Police pay was one of several topics brought up at the October 19 meeting of the council’s law enforcement ad-hoc committee.

The meeting comes a little less than a week after the council discussed at length pay raises for veteran officers, and weeks after pay raises for new recruits and early career officers took effect.

As part of the 2021 budget, the council approved increasing the starting pay for officers, in part, to make the pay more attractive to new recruits.

However, that decision drew criticism from existing members of the Jackson Police Department, who say they haven’t gotten a raise in years.

Part of the problem is the department’s pay structure, which Deputy Chief Joseph Wade said is based on officer rank.

Previously, officers received a base pay during their time at the Jackson Police Officers' Training Academy, followed by a pay bump upon graduation. After one year, pay was raised again to $31,000. From there, officers didn’t see a pay increase until year 10.

“I’ve not found another agency where there was a 10-year gap before (officers) got a pay raise,” Wade told the council.

Under the new structure, early career officers receive a salary increase in their first, third and fifth years, bringing their salary at five years to $35,000.

The next increase still doesn’t come until year 10, when officers who have not made sergeant are automatically promoted to corporal. Corporals earn $37,000 annually, Wade said.

Corporals typically serve in a supervisory role in the absence of sergeants and lieutenants. The position was put in place years ago, to help retain veteran officers, he explained.

Officers are eligible for pay increases prior to their 10-year mark if they’re promoted to sergeant or lieutenant.

However, the department has not offered sergeants' or lieutenants' exams since 2013.

“You can’t have those promotions without the manpower to (replace them),” Wade said.

As of September 27, the department was 101 officers and approximately 20 detectives short, according to city documents.

JPD does have several candidates interviewing to be active sergeants, but there are no plans to implement the ranking test currently.

Council members say there’s no reason not to give the ranking test, or to raise pay.

“We have officers who have worked for 10, 15 additional years and they’re still at $37,000, and we haven’t funded a sergeants' exam?” Council President Aaron Banks said. “I’d be pissed, too."

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