When Jacob Grady graduated from TCU and began looking for a job as a police officer, one city stood out.
Grady, 27, had served as a Marine and used the GI Bill to attend TCU, where he majored in political science and minored in history and criminal justice.
He had been contacted by several cities about employment, but with a starting salary of $69,410, Hurst was the clear choice.
“My wife is very practical. We were looking at the pay and benefits in our area, and you can’t really beat Hurst,” Grady said. “Benefits are good in a lot of departments, but the police department has a good relationship with officers, and the city has a good relationship with the department.”
Hurst’s starting salary for police officers is the highest among Tarrant County’s 10 largest cities, and some aren’t even close.
Fort Worth starts officers at $54,312.
Hurst’s neighbor, Bedford, is at $50,397.
In Dallas the starting pay is $49,207, or $52,807 with a four-year college degree.
“We are looking for people with the right attitude, intelligence and common sense to do the job,” Hurst assistant police Chief Steve Niekamp said. “If they have those qualities, we can train them to do the rest.”
Neikamp said Hurst currently has four recruits at the Tarrant County College Police Academy. He said there are no job openings.
“Cities with lower salaries, you will have to deal with higher turnover,” Niekamp said.
Hurst had four murders from 2012 through 2016 and saw a drop in aggravated assaults (172 to 39), burglaries (266 to 156) and other crimes, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
The last time there was an officer-involved shooting came in October 2015.
‘Hats off to Hurst’
The city sits in the center of Northeast Tarrant County and is split by Texas 121/183, also known as the North Tarrant Express. The city is easily accessible and retail, anchored by North East Mall and other popular shopping spots, is a big money maker.
Hurst has 39,160 residents, 85 percent of whom are white. The city’s police force has 75 officers, including 65 men and 10 women. Of those 65 are white, six are Hispanic, three are African-American and one is Asian.
Officers who hire on with Hurst have to complete a probationary period of 12 to 18 months. The salary then jumps from $69,410 to $76,003 and officers also get cost-of-living increases.
As they move through the ranks, the salaries also increase: a corporal makes $81,265; sergeant $92,414 and lieutenant $109,761.
J.P. Mason, president of the Arlington Police Officers Association, said all Arlington employees are in the second year of a three-year program to boost their salaries 5 percent above the market rate. Employees are seeing a 4.6 percent pay hike for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and will also have a 4.6 percent increase in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
“Hats off to Hurst for what they get; we are always fighting for higher salaries,” Mason said.
Mason said that when looking at salaries, it’s important to look at the total package including pensions.
Arlington does not have problems with its pension plan, unlike Dallas and Fort Worth, Mason said.
‘Grow your own’
In Euless, which has the second-highest starting salary in Tarrant County at $61,795, police Chief Mike Brown instills the philosophy of “grow your own.”
“Years ago, there was a conscious decision from the city council and management to make sure we didn’t just become a training ground,” Brown said. “We want someone to be here 20 to 30 years. Bring them in and pay them well, treat them well so that they will stay. Retention is even more important to us than recruitment.”
As much as Hurst touts its salaries, officers say there’s much more in play.
Lt. Mark Schwobel, who oversees Hurst’s police officer recruiting, said the city has been on the high end of salaries since the 1970s.
When looking at a career it’s important to look beyond the salary at other factors such as benefits including health insurance and retirement, he said.
But, he said, “the most important thing we have in Hurst is the culture,” Schwobel said. “It’s not just the police department culture but the culture in the city that keeps people from going somewhere else.”
Sgt. Thomas Tompkins has been with the Hurst Police Department for 15 years, and he came from Dallas for the higher pay. But it’s the high morale and camaraderie that makes him want to come to work every day.
Tompkins said he decided to leave Dallas because of a long commute from his home in Saginaw.
“I also found myself working every part-time job I could to support my family. That meant less time with them...,” he said. “’I actually found myself making more money working part-time security gigs than I was making at the pd.”
Tompkins looked at several agencies including Hurst, and said at the time, their pay was way above other departments.
“I’m talking thousands of dollars. Since then, many of the agencies have closed the gap significantly, but we are still paid well,” Tompkins said.
Starting police salaries
Starting salaries for officers in the 10 largest Tarrant County cities:
Hurst: $69,410; population 39,160
Euless: $61,795; population 54,769
Mansfield: $60,000; population 65,631
Arlington: $59,264; population 392,772
Haltom City: $57,238; population 44,361
North Richland Hills: $56,309; population 69,798 people
Keller: $55,910; population 46,646
Fort Worth: $54,312; population 854,113
Grapevine: $51,280; population 51,971
Bedford: $50,397; population 49,528