Police officers in Hurst get a starting salary of over $69,000 and the city takes pride in paying officers so they don’t go elsewhere.
In more than 30 years as a cop, Hurst police Lt. Mark Schwobel can remember only a handful of officers who left the city for another department.
Schwobel, who oversees recruitment of officers, touts Hurst’s “organizational culture” and community support.
But he also knows that a good paycheck goes a long way.
Hurst, with about 75 sworn officers, pays one of the highest starting police salaries in North Texas. Rookie officers earn nearly $66,000 a year. After a probationary period of 12-18 months, the city bumps officers’ pay to about $72,000.
Other suburban departments aren’t far behind. Plano pays rookies almost $64,000, and the starting salary in Frisco is about $61,000.
Richardson, Irving, Mesquite, Arlington, Carrollton, Euless, Allen and Grand Prairie pay new officers more than $56,000 a year.
As Dallas police fight for raises to avoid losing more officers to Fort Worth, a look around the Metroplex shows that the most attractive pay options are often in the suburbs.
“It’s a very competitive market right now for law enforcement jobs,” said Sgt. Jeff Davis, who heads Arlington’s personnel recruiting. “Everyone is facing challenges to get the quality applicants. … I can’t see it being that much different than in the corporate world.”
Arlington, with 641 sworn officers, pays rookies $56,658 a year, about $4,500 more than Fort Worth. Arlington also pays training officers about $1,500 more a month than Fort Worth.
Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said Fort Worth’s starting salary is competitive.
But more goes into officer benefits than salaries. “Soft pay,” which includes extra money for longevity, language certifications, allowances and education incentives, could be improved in Fort Worth, Van Houten said.
He also said there were recent cuts in Fort Worth’s police pension plan. The stand-alone plan, as opposed to being a part of the Texas Municipal Retirement System like most suburban departments, is designed to give officers an incentive to stay in Fort Worth their entire career.
Low pay in Dallas
Fort Worth is well ahead of Dallas, where officers without a four-year degree start at about $44,600. A degree bumps that to about $48,000.
The effect of the pay gap between Dallas and Fort Worth is clear: Since January 2015, 27 Dallas officers, including eight this summer, have joined the Fort Worth department through its lateral-entry officer classes.
The classes require applicants to have two years of full-time service in a city of 100,000 people or more.
Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association, said Fort Worth’s lateral-entry program is a smart strategy.
After Dallas trains officers at a cost of about $150,000, Fort Worth can offer more pay and add experienced officers without the full academy costs.
Fort Worth isn’t the only department luring away Dallas officers.
In total, Pinkston said, Dallas is close to losing 100 to other agencies over pay this year. More than 20 more left for the private sector.
Pinkston said he recently compared Dallas’ salaries with a sampling of other departments in the Metroplex, including Fort Worth, Denton, Plano, Frisco, Richardson and Arlington. He found that Dallas officers’ average salaries were 22 percent below the average of those departments.
“That’s not even close to being competitive,” Pinkston said.
The Dallas department needs about 500 officers — there are 300 vacancies, and Chief David Brown wants to add about 200 officer positions to the new budget, WFAA-TV reported.
Thirty years ago, young officers flocked to the big-city departments, said Lt. Keith Bauman, a spokesman for North Richland Hills police. Police forces in Dallas and Houston were like brand names — recruits knew that’s where the action would be, Bauman said.
“Some of that shifted in the 90s,” he said. “Officers realized you can get a lot of activity being in a suburb. You can have a very long, good career.”
Now, North Richland Hills — which pays new officers $52,738 a year, about the same as Fort Worth — recruits from the same pool of applicants as the big cities, Bauman said.
Bauman said the best-paying police jobs are often clustered around large metro areas. A larger number of police departments likely cause a more competitive environment.
“Think about how many cities there are from Blue Mound to Rockwall,” Bauman said. “They all need police officers, and they all want to get the good applicants.”
In Frisco, one of the fastest-growing cities in the area, police are planning to develop a lateral-entry program to facilitate new hires, Deputy Chief Jason Jenkins said.
“If you want above-average employees,” Jenkins said, “you have to pay them above average.”
Ryan Osborne: 817-390-7684, @RyanOsborneFWST
Police salaries in North Texas
As Dallas police fight for raises to avoid losing officers to Fort Worth, many of the higher starting salaries for officers are be found in the suburbs.
North Richland Hills
* with degree; $44,658 without degree