SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City officials are confirming a huge pay raise for police officers, firefighters and other city workers. City leaders say they want to make the best police department in the state, but they couldn’t do that while they were offering much less than other cities.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall says there were three major workers unions that were negotiating new salaries with the city. They include the Salt Lake Police Association (SLPA), Salt Lake City Fire Fighters IAFF and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Mendenhall announced all unions would be seeing a pay raise, but the largest was given to SLPA.
The increase was so significant, SLPA President Joseph McBride says to say they were “pleasantly surprised” would be an understatement.
“We don’t typically see wage increases like this. So, when we saw it, we were really, really happy because we knew what it would mean to the guys, and we know what it means to the city.”
The new agreement would raise new officer’s pay by 30 percent, along with a 12 percent increase for senior officers at the top of their pay scale. Officials say they wanted to match the top salaries in the market, then add another one percent. McBride says this raise will entice many new officers to move to Salt Lake City, and will go a long way to boost morale. McBride says morale took an extreme drop over the course of 2020.
“I have never seen it so bad. It’s hard to describe,” he says.
Currently, there are nearly 70 vacancies that need to be filled within SLCPD. Mendenhall says falling morale and spiking resignations is a problem that police agencies all over the country are facing.
“Seattle has lost 219 officers in the last year. In April, Portland reported nearly 140 vacancies on its force,” she says.
Mendenhall says many of their police officers left when Taylorsville announced they were creating a new department, and they were offering far more than SLCPD. She says they needed to give officers a reason to stay in Salt Lake.
“We can’t do that while paying officers as much as 10 percent less than other local governments,” according to Mendenhall.
The mayor acknowledged some people will be upset by this decision, but adds that it was made with the backing of the city’s Commission on Racial Equity in Policing. She says taking away funds from a department that was already struggling to keep employees would be a step backward.
Mendenhall says, “Defunding the police isn’t something I have ever supported.”
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