Durham is experiencing an equally heavy hit in law enforcement.
Officer David Addison quoted below is a co-defendant in the current civil suits: http://heraldsun.southernheadlines.com/opinion/columnists/guests/68-994950.cfm?
Pay issues make it harder for Durham to keep police officers
By David Addison, Mike Evans and Sheldon Perkins
The Durham Police Department is facing a crisis. The city recently completed a pay study that took effect Oct. 1. We believed it would solve our pay issues, but it made matters worse in many cases.
We have been told repeatedly by City Council members and administrators that keeping Durham employees competitive in pay was their top priority. But this issue has yet to be adequately addressed. We are losing officers to other agencies at an alarming rate. This directly affects the morale of the department and the quality of service to our community.
Fifty officers left the Durham Police Department in 2007 for various reasons. We have already lost 50 officers in 2008 and three months still remain. Already, we have lost twice as many officers (19) in 2008 to other agencies as in all of 2007 (
. We often lose officers to smaller departments such as Wake Forest, Apex and Morrisville, which seldom happened in past years. Officers are going to these departments because of higher pay, lighter workloads and perks such as take-home cars. Because of our salaries, we are training officers for other departments.
We now have at least 30 vacancies. In recent weeks, patrol squads have had staffing levels ranging from 54 percent to 70 percent. Officers are working at maximum capacity to prevent a gap in services
In the past year, the number of calls for police service has increased significantly. The calls jumped 22 percent from 289,377 in fiscal 2007 to 353,790 in FY 2008. The calls in July 2008 were up 16 percent over July 2007 and the call volume in August 2008 increased by 13 percent. We can't afford to be losing large numbers of officers when our calls for service are increasing at such rates. Unfortunately, the response times to calls will slow down as officers decrease and calls increase.
The pay is also adversely affecting our recruiting efforts. Last month we started a basic law enforcement training academy with positions for 40 recruits. We only have 14 rookies in the class because it is difficult to attract qualified recruits.
It's not a simple matter to replace officers who leave. It costs approximately $100,000 to train an officer. The officer spends 26 weeks in the rookie academy, approximately three months working with a partner and 12 more weeks in supervised training before he/she is released to work as a patrol officer. Officers will tell you that it takes several years for a new officer to adapt to the job.
When we lose officers with three or more years of experience, it means that Durham is paying to train officers for other law enforcement agencies. We have lost $2.7 million in training costs for the officers who left in the last two years.
Other local agencies are happy to hire our officers because they know they are well-trained and capable. The Durham Police Department provides 920 hours of training in the rookie academy, well above the state requirement of 618 hours. Do we want to continue paying to train officers for Morrisville, Wake Forest, Apex, Raleigh and other local departments? Or should we pay our officers so they stay in Durham?
One of the main issues is pay compression, which has been a major problem for at least 10 years. This has occurred because the city increased the starting pay to attract new officers, but didn't increase it proportionately for veterans. As a result, veteran officers sometimes end up making less than officers they supervise. The recent pay study appears to have made this even worse. The compression issue must be addressed, or we will continue to lose veteran officers to other agencies.
Our officers are dedicated to serving this community and they work hard even under adverse conditions, but theys have families and bills to pay.
Earlier this year, police administrators presented city officials with three pay proposals designed to address the compression issue. The costs to implement these proposals ranged from $1.8 million to $4.3 million. We ask city officials to create a committee to draft a comprehensive plan to address the pay compression issue. The pay issue is affecting officer morale, officer safety and even the safety of our community. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this issue.
Durham Police Sgt. David Addison is president of the Triangle Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, Durham Police Investigator Mike Evans is president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Durham Lodge #2, and Durham Police Sgt. Sheldon Perkins is president of the North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance, Durham Chapter.