JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Police pay was again front and center at a Jackson City Council meeting.
On Tuesday, the council discussed at length plans to give police officers higher salaries.
A proposal to increase pay for officers failed to gain traction, but council members did commit to finding a way to raise police compensation during the 2021 fiscal year.
“We’re going to act and move soon,” said Council President Aaron Banks.
The fiscal year runs from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.
Conversations were sparked by a proposal from Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who was backing raising hourly pay for officers, corporals and sergeants.
The councilman proposed raising police pay to $18 for patrol officers, $21 for corporals and $25 for sergeants.
Council members urged Stokes to allow the measure to be placed in a committee for further review, but the councilman refused. The measure died on a 1-3-1 vote.
Stokes said the increases are needed so officers do not have to work multiple jobs to compensate for low pay.
“We’ve got to deal with the pay,” he said. “They’re here to serve and protect. How can we justify making them work two or three jobs just to make ends meet?”
One officer told the council that three officers recently quit Precinct Three as a result of pay.
As of September 27, the department was short 101 sworn officers, according to city documents.
Another officer, Jarron Carter said that increasing pay could help attract more officers, which, in turn, would reduce crime and bring in additional business to the city.
That new business would generate more revenues for city coffers, he said.
“Right now, Jackson has 101 homicides for the year, which almost totaled all (other) Mississippi cities put together,” he said.
In September, the council approved the first pay increase for officers in a decade.
Starting pay 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 was increased to $31,000. 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.
The move brought new officer pay more in line with other Southeastern cities of similar size.
Recruits in Shreveport, for instance, earn $26,148 in the academy, an amount that is increased to $33,000 after graduation. Starting pay for Mobile officers is $31,679 and bumped up to $36,679 after six months, the city’s website states. Recruits in Little Rock earn $43,742 starting out, and $46,404 after the first year.
However, some current officers were upset that they, too, did not see a salary increase.
Banks said the increase, though, was the first phase of what he hopes will be across-the-board raises for officers.
“The first phase of what we had to do was raise the floor. That was phase one. We had to bring it to a place to be competitive with our surrounding areas,” he said.
Addressing officers’ concerns, Banks said, “The part you missed is that there would be a second phase that will come this year.”
He said the council is currently working with the police and fire chiefs and administration to come up with a plan to make raises happen.
It was not clear, though, when that plan would be presented.
Among options, Banks said the city could use CARES Act money to raise pay.
Millions of dollars in federal CARES monies has been set aside by the legislature to help cities and counties across the state in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those funds also can be used to reimburse municipalities for law enforcement-related costs.
Jackson is eligible for more than $4 million in CARES funding, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The city is also looking at providing educational incentives for officers who obtain college degrees, as well as giving officers the opportunity to sit for sergeants’ and lieutenants’ exams earlier in their career.
Ward Four Councilman De’Keither Stamps, who left the meeting after public comment, is skeptical of any raises being introduced this budget year. He also doesn’t support the idea of using one-time funds, such as the CARES proceeds, to finance continuing expenses.
Meanwhile, Mayor Lumumba’s Chief of Staff Safiya Omari said officers are already seeing more take-home pay, thanks to the city taking over health insurance premium costs. She said that amounts to $82 a month for individuals with a single-payer option.
Copyright 2020 WLBT. All rights reserved.