JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Weeks after committing to giving veteran police officers pay raises this year, Jackson City Council President Aaron Banks said the city is making progress on fulfilling that promise.
Right now, the administration is conducting a job pay analysis, comparing salaries of Jackson police officers to salaries of officers in similar-size cities.
Once that data is compiled, it will be turned over to city finance, which will determine exactly what the city can afford, based on current officer and budgeted officers, and present that information to the council.
“We should have something hopefully by the end of November,” Banks said. “The administration said they could have the report done by the end of the year, but I’ve pushed the envelope to see if we could get something by the end of November.”
Lumumba administration officials agreed to conduct the study during an October 13 city council meeting, where police pay was again at the forefront.
Several veteran Jackson Police Department (JPD) officers spoke to the council, who were upset that the pay raise plan implemented this year did not benefit them.
As part of the 2021 budget, the council approved raising base pay for new recruits and officers, in part, to help the city’s recruiting efforts.
Veteran officers, said they deserved a raise as well and spoke in support of Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes' proposal to raise hourly rates to $18 an hour for patrol officers, $21 an hour for corporals and $25 for sergeants.
Stokes' measure failed, largely because the council wanted to place it in a committee and discuss it further.
However, officers scored a victory, with Banks and other council members committing to give veteran officers a pay raise during the current fiscal year.
Banks said he understood veterans' concerns and explained why the council took its earlier actions.
“The action we took was to raise starting pay. Officer starting pay was around at $26,900, which was below every surrounding agency and even some competing agencies in the city,” he said. “Jackson State University starts out at $32,500. Others start at $32,100. We wanted to raise the floor to attract more recruits.”
The starting salary for officers coming out of the training academy was increased to $30,000, up from the previous pay of $26,900. After the first year, pay is increased to $31,000. Under the council’s new plan, officers also will receive pay raises in their third and fifth years, moving their salaries to $33,000 and $35,000 respectively, WLBT previously reported.
Previously, after the first-year increase, officers did not receive a pay raise until their 10-year-mark, when those who had not been promoted to sergeants or lieutenants automatically were made corporals. Corporals earn $37,000 annually, Banks said.
Meanwhile, officers in the city do not receive annual cost-of-living increases, meaning that even now, after five and 10 years, officers are not eligible for additional raises unless they’re promoted.
Getting a promotion isn’t easy. The department has not offered sergeants' and lieutenants' exams in years, in part, because it doesn’t have the employees to fill the positions.
“You have corporals who have been in the department, 18 and 20 years who are just making $37,000,” said Banks. “Someone who just got here, who has been here for five years, is making just $2,000 below what they are making.
“We’re working to raise corporal pay to be more competitive,” he said.
The comparative study will look at similar-size cities like Little Rock, Mobile and Shreveport, to determine what corporals make there.
Jackson has a population of about 164,000 people, according to the latest census figures. By comparison, Mobile has nearly 190,000, Little Rock has 198,000 and Shreveport has 189,000, census data show.
Once that information is compiled, it will be presented to the finance department, who will “crunch the numbers based on the officers we have and (budgeted) officers, and present to the council a bottom line,” Banks said.
“We will know if the raises will cost $900,000, $1.7 million, $2.3 million,” he explained. “Once we know that, it will be added to the agenda and we’ll take a vote.”
Banks said he would like to see corporal pay increased to between $40,000 and $43,000 a year, which would amount to raises of $3,000 to $6,000. He also said he would like to see pay raises for lieutenants and sergeants.
JPD has 89 corporals. A $3,000 pay raise for existing corporals would cost the city $267,000. A $6,000 per-officer raise would cost the city $534,000.
That does not include amounts for sergeants and lieutenants. Banks was not sure how many sergeants or lieutenants are currently with the department.
Even with those positions included, the council president believes that the money for the raises can be found in this year’s budget.
“I think there are ways to maneuver (funds) to make that happen,” he said. “Once we get the amount from finance, then we’ll know where to scope in and look.”