July 17, 2012

Colleyville losing longtime police officers

Officials cite “salary compression” for high turnover rate.

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COLLEYVILLE --A police officer with 15 years' experience earns less than one who has been on the force five years -- a stark example of what's called a "salary compression" problem in the Colleyville Police Department.

The result has been high turnover as officers leave the city for other area departments, Police Chief Michael Holder told the City Council on Tuesday.

The department has five openings, and two officers plan to retire next year. Another officer, who has been with the department six years, is applying for another job.

Six years is "the jumping-off point," Holder said.

In many ways, Colleyville's police force, which hasn't been fully staffed since 2009, has become a "training ground" for other cities.

"It's been a constantly revolving door for us," he said.

The lack of staff causes delays in promotions and training and more overtime and stress for the officers, Holder said.

City Manager Jennifer Fadden said the compression issue is the "most critical" issue facing the Police Department.

"We're having significant recruitment and retention problems," Fadden said.

Salary compression occurs when the difference between salaries shrinks so that employees who perform the same job earn almost the same amount of money regardless of their years of experience.

At a work session Tuesday, city staff proposed giving all 31 sworn officers a salary adjustment that will reduce the compression problems for the more seasoned officers. It would cost about $213,000 for fiscal 2013.

It's a decision council members will have to make in the next few weeks as they finalize the 2013 budget. Most council members supported increasing the salaries, but there were concerns about increasing the base pay for police and whether it's sustainable.

Councilman Mike Taylor said he's concerned that Colleyville will have to maintain the increases every year and that could cause funding problems for future councils.

Councilman Michael Muhm said he's confident the plan will work but said management should make sure officers deserve the raises.

Councilwoman Carol Wollin said she believes that raises should be given based on performance, not just seniority.

Colleyville officers start out making $48,610 a year, which is competitive with other area cities, Holder said.

The problem is, after six years, officers make only $900 more than when they started.

Nicholas Sakelaris 817-431-2231

Twitter: @reporternick1

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