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Pay changes could keep cops longer in Longview

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
Aug. 31, 2013 at 10 p.m.


Longview's recently approved budget could help relieve turnover and retention woes in the police department, officials said Friday.

As part of the city's $153.1 million budget, council members approved changing the pay scale for officers from five steps to nine steps. The number of steps had been the same since 2009.

The newly approved structure slightly increases starting officer pay from $47,781 to $47,782 and raises the maximum pay from $54,694 to $57,653

Officers who have been with the department for eight years will be bumped up to the new maximum salary Oct. 1.

Unless the city approves another across-the-board cost of living increase, those officers will not get other salary increases in the upcoming budget cycle.

Officials believe the new step policy will make the department more attractive to new recruits and keep tenured officers.

"An increase in salary always helps," said Police Chief Don Dingler. "It increases the maximum pay and adds three steps, but it also increases the chances of retaining some officers."

The department is 18 officers short of the 172 officers it is budgeted to employ.

Jimmy Redmon, president of the Longview Police Officers Association, said in February that his organization was concerned officers were coming to Longview "to start their career, get trained and leave."

He said at the time the city's step policy was to blame and that increasing salary steps to put the department more in line with the Tyler Police Department would increase retention.

Tyler police officers have 19 steps with a starting salary of $43,821 and a higher maximum pay of $64,681.

Redmon said improving retention could lead to improved community relations.

"It's important for the community to see officers they know. They get to know certain officers by name," he said in February, adding it's a two-way street. "It's a plus for the officer because they know the neighborhood and its problems."

Officer pay was the topic of a meeting this past year between the Longview Police Officers Association about the pay structure.

Dingler said Friday that he appreciates city officials who listened to the concerns and realized it was time for the department to be more attractive to incoming officers.

"I appreciate that the city manager has always understood the competitive nature of the police profession. This step plan should help greatly in attracting and keeping officers as the city of Longview is a great place to begin and continue a police career," Dingler said.

Most other comparable departments offer more ability for wages to continue increasing as longevity grows.

Turnover within the department has accounted for the majority of the city's overall turnover rate.

In each of the past three fiscal years, the city's turnover rate for all employees has been about 12 percent. Turnover at the police department in 2011-12 accounted for 9.7 percent of that. In the previous two years, it was 8.4 percent and 7.4 percent of the totals, respectively.

The police department represents the largest chunk of the city's 2013-14 general fund expenditures with $19.7 million. The amount includes $11.1 million for personnel services, $1.4 million for contractual services, $3.6 million for payroll burden and $1.2 million for personnel services for public safety communications.

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