“If I was asked would I rather have six new officers or fix the pay plan -- the answer is fix the pay plan.”
Certain Jacksonville Police Officers are now eligible for a pay raise as part of the city’s recently approved budget.
A paystep program, which will incentivise promotions for those ranking Police Officer I and II, will establish a $500 pay increase each year the officers remain in the department.
According to Chief Michael Yaniero, this is the first time the department has introduced a step plan, although other adjustments to pay have been made in the past.
The plan is projected to cost $110,000 yearly and improve retention rates.
Yaniero said some of the current hurdles in retention is the nature of Jacksonville’s population, where military spouses who work in law enforcement move every five years or so. Just in the past two years, a total of 27 officers have left JPD for another agency - 11 of which were recruited by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office.
In general, it takes 44 weeks to fill a vacant officer position - just based on the time it takes to train for the position, Yaniero said. This can cost up to $50,000.
“If I was asked would I rather have six new officers or fix the pay plan - the answer is fix the pay plan,” Yaniero said.
While the plan’s main purpose is retention, Yaniero said it also aims to put more corporal-level officers on the street.
“We are trying to move all the PO1s and PO2s to the corporal level,” Yaniero said.
For an entry-level officer, almost a whole year (44 weeks) of training is required, and Yaniero said it takes most officers an additional year to truly adjust to the job.
The training required to move through the ranks takes time as well, Yaniero said. The paystep program is based on a 15-year model, where it takes 10 years to receive a promotion to corporal. For some officers, though, this process is shorter or longer, depending on the training they receive and their own goals.
“If they have a degree and training, they can reduce that time,” Yaniero explained. “They can make (rank) in 8-9 years if they work hard and take all their classes.”
Yaniero said those eligible for the program will be automatically enrolled, and the officers involved have been receptive. He also thanked city council for their support of city police.
“The mayor and city council are very supportive of our quest in excellence,” Yaneiro said.
Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett said the plan allows officers to see a pathway for promotion.
“And it also allows police to have the most highly trained officers in the places where highly trained officers need to be - on the street,” Hargett said.
Statistics kept on where Jacksonville officers go next should they leave their job were indicative of the local law enforcement market and helped form the plan as well, Hargett said.
For example, a JPD officer ranked Police Officer 1 (PO1) makes $34,850 yearly, while a similar ranked officer at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office makes $40,029.
Other state agencies, such as the State Bureau of Investigation and Department of Motor Vehicles have comparable salaries at $41,125 and $39,078, respectively.
Hargett said the pay plan is not necessarily a novel idea, considering other agencies use a similar plan, including the state police. Yaniero agreed, saying research demonstrates compensation and benefits are extremely important for law enforcement employees.
“Officers are retained in an agency because they know what they are going to get,” Yaniero said.
Under the new plan, officers will be able to see from the beginning what their compensation will look like as they move through the ranks.
“We have very dedicated employees who work hard to make the community safe,” Yaniero said.
Reporter Kelsey Stiglitz can be reached at 910-219-8453 or kstiglitz@JDNews.com.