Arlington police association pushes for pay raises

02/12/2014 5:52 PM

02/12/2014 5:52 PM

Arlington police officers across every rank are underpaid compared with surrounding Metroplex cities, said a police association that is urging city leaders to consider approving significant raises for sworn personnel.

The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association, which represents about half of the city’s 638 police officers, is seeking a 5 to 6 percent pay increase it says will make the department more competitive with cities such as Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and Plano. With city budget deliberations beginning next month, officer Chris Ceballos presented the Arlington City Council with a survey Tuesday outlining the salary and benefits disparities between Arlington and 13 surrounding cities.

The Arlington Police Department requires its officers to hold a four-year degree, something many other cities don’t, said Ceballos, an association board member. Higher employee insurance premiums and below average starting salaries and maximum salaries may push current officers to seek jobs elsewhere or make it difficult to recruit new officers, Ceballos said.

“Most of our applicants are going to have student loans,” Ceballos said “If you are an applicant and you do a little research, would you rather go to a department that has better pay and competitive insurance or one that is charging more for insurance and has lower pay?”

An estimate on how much a 5 percent pay raise for police officers would cost was not available from the city’s budget office Wednesday,

Mayor Robert Cluck said he wants to make compensation for all city employees — not just police officers — one of the first considerations when budget talks begin.

“Police are very important. Fire is very important. So are civilians. We need to also look at where they are as far as the pay structure is concerned,” Cluck said. “We need to look at them [all employees] and make sure they get a fair share, not because we want them to stay but because it’s the right thing to do.”

The starting pay for Arlington officers is $50,989, or 3.6 percent below the average of the departments surveyed, according to Texas Municipal Police Association, which conducted the survey for the Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association. Officers in Denton, for example, start at $53,680; and officers in Carrollton start at $56,102, the survey says.

Starting pay for sergeants, at $70,922, was 7.6 percent lower than the average; lieutenant’s pay at $85,229, was 2.5 percent lower than the average; assistant chief’s starting pay at $96,932 was 15.9 percent lower than the average, the survey found. Assistant chiefs start at $104,021 in Fort Worth and $129,218 in Grand Prairie, the survey shows.

Maxed out pay for Arlington officers is $68,363, or 5.6 percent below the average of the departments surveyed. Officers in Plano can earn up to $78,920, and officers in Irving can earn up to $70,111, the survey said.

The maximum salary for sergeants is $78,191, which is 9.7 percent lower than the average, and the $89,490 max salary for lieutenants was 8.8 percent lower than average, the survey found. However, the maximum pay for assistant chiefs at $145,398 was 10.2 percent higher than the average of departments surveyed. Pay topped out at $129,318 in Grand Prairie and $126,155 in Lewisville, the report found.

Arlington had recently conducted its own study and found that its civilian employees’ salaries were about 1 percent behind other cities in the region and sworn employees’ salaries were between 2 and 6 percent behind the market.

“The city has money, it’s not like we are broke, but it’s all about priorities. I think retaining our most qualified police officers should be our top priority,” Arlington Police Association President Becki Brandenburg said.

“This is the best police department in the country and if the city wants to keep them then they need to pay them accordingly,” she said.

All Arlington city employees received a 3 percent pay raise last fiscal year, while this fiscal year civilian employees received a 1 percent raise and sworn police and fire personnel received a 2 percent pay raise. All employees also received a 2 percent bonus this year. Before that, the city’s budget did not include employee pay raises for four years straight, though bonuses were given.

Staff writer Monica Nagy contributed to this report, which contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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