At the November 25, 2008 Burlington City Council meeting, Council responded to public comments with a one-time pay increase of 12% to the bottom five ranks of the Burlington Police Department.
At the November 3 Work Session and the November 18 City Council meeting, Chief of Police Michael Williams presented Council with material that showed a disturbing trend in officer retention. There are currently 21 unoccupied police officer positions in the Burlington Police Department (BPD) out of 118 positions. This severe workforce shortage is resulting in:
• Increased Calls For Service (CFS);
• Calls For Service being held for available officers;
• Longer response times;
• Less visible police presence in neighborhoods;
• Increased case load for detectives.
Since January 1, 2004 the BPD has lost 68 police officers. Of these, 29 went to other law enforcement agencies for financial reasons. From Patrolman through Staff Sergeant, BPD averages 18% under salaries of competing agencies in the City’s market area. At full-staff next year, 40% of BPD force would have less than three years experience. “[I]t’s the younger officers who are leaving and are more marketable to these competing agencies,” said Chief Williams. “We are training high quality officers… [unfortunately], other communities are benefiting rather than the citizens of Burlington.”
In response, Council approved a one-time salary increase of 12% for the affected ranks. A supplement will also be provided for officers on the 2, 3, and 4 years. Finally, a children's co-pay benefit will be added to the City's health insurance policy. Currently, City employees must pay a $1,000 deductible before any benefits are accessed. The co-pay will allow officers to take their children to see the doctor for only $25.00.
“Obviously times are difficult… but the safety of our citizens has to be a top priority,” said Mayor Ronnie Wall. “It’s vital that we maintain an experienced workforce.”