By Tia Lynn Ivey
The City of Madison is down three police officers, on top of recently having two officers out with COVID-19. The shortage has resulted in remaining officers to take on extra shifts and put in a good bit of overtime, according to Madison City Manager David Nunn.
According to Nunn, city staff is reviewing pay and benefit packages for police officers in order to recruit new officers and keep officers long-term. Nunn explained the situation to the Madison Mayor and City Council at Monday night’s regular meeting.
“We are hiring for police officers,” said Nunn. “We have asked the Chief of Police to review our pay scale and other factors as we move forward.”
According to Nunn, the starting pay for rookie police officers is good, but moving up the ladder to higher positions and higher pay is difficult in a small town police department.
“Our starting pay is O.K., but after that, we have let it get a little behind. We need to look at a significant pay bump after six months with the department and then after that, in five years, 10 years, some guaranteed pay increases,” explained Nunn.
Nunn explained that Madison police officers have little chance to rise through the ranks to obtain better positions with higher wages.
“We are a relatively small department, and upward mobility is tough when you have a department like ours that is stable at the top, which is what you need, but if you can’t achieve that higher pay, you’ll eventually leave.
Nunn wants to revamp the salary system to retain police officers in the long-term.
“We have to have some kind of system that officers know that once they reach a certain tenor, their pay will go up,” said Nunn.
Nunn noted that police officers are an important segment of city staff in whom to invest.
“Police officers are unique,” said Nunn. They have to be highly qualified and trained. Their environment is risky and dangerous. With the climate right now, public perception of the police is not great right now, either. It’s not their fault, but that’s where we are.”
Nunn, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman and City Council members praised the Madison Police Department for the work they do in the community.
“We don’t get a lot of complaints about our officers,” said Nunn. “We go months and months without hearing any complaints. Kudos to our guys for what they do.Some have Lifesaving Awards for going out of their way to help people.”
“We are grateful for the job our officers do for our city,” said Perriman.
“I think our police department is really good with community relations,” said Madison CIty Councilwoman Chris Hodges.”They are the boots on the ground and our community feels very comfortable with the police officers that we have. That’s been my perception.”
Hodges also suggested the Madison Police Department follow the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office lead and offer Implicit Bias Training to officers, which aims to expose people to their unconscious biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors. A critical component of unconscious bias training is creating awareness for implicit bias.
Councilman Eric Joyce suggested looking at a way to provide police officers with housing credits to enable them to live within the City of Madison.
“I think it benefits both our police officers and is in the the public’s interest for officers to live in our community,” said Joyce.
Nunn will report back to the city council on changes made to improve to attract more police offers and reduce the department’s turn at future council meetings.