JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - After being sworn-in in September, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott had a few items at the top of his to-do list. First and foremost, bring staffing and morale back up.
The department it now fully staffed and Chief Elliott hopes that in 2015, by addressing pay issues, morale will go up as well.
"Nobody gets in law enforcement and thinks you're going to come out wealthy by any means," Chief Elliott said.
But when the new guy makes as much as an experienced officer, it can bring frustration to the force.
The questions over pay comes down to who makes what. According to numbers requested through the Freedom of Information Act, entry level police officers in Jonesboro can expect an annual income of $31,746 dollars. However, officers who have been on the force for five years can expect to make that same exact amount.
Tuesday evening, officers stood together at the Jonesboro City Council chambers, telling aldermen that something needs to be done about their pay.
Chief Elliott agrees.
"You have to constantly look at your employees and where they're at and kind of have some kind of salary structure and I think our salary structure alignment has kind of got out of place," he said.
Chief Elliott explained that over a decade ago, an outside company reevaluated positions in the police department. That ultimately resulted in, in some cases, substantial pay increases for officers.
"It gave us that separation from a new guy to the five year guy to the ten year guy," Chief Elliott said.
However, as a reevaluation hasn't been done since, experienced officers often make just as much as or only a little more than the brand new rookies that they are training.
"Yes, we do have some incentive plans in place, but the step raises are just kind of, that's the big one that we need to be realigned on," Chief Elliott said.
For instance, compare Jonesboro and Springdale. Two Arkansas cities with comparable population and size of their police departments.
Entry level officers in Springdale only make $150 more starting out but after five years on the force as a patrol officer, they can expect to be making nearly $7,000 more than their Jonesboro counterparts.
Chief Elliott said those types of incentives can keep an officer from leaving the department.
"If you're making the same from now to ten to fifteen years later, other than the cost of living you may get, you know there's not much incentive to stay," he said.
Chief Elliott explained that with the amount of taxpayer dollars that go into training an officer, considering step raises will only benefit the city in the long run.
"It's just protecting our investment."
Chief Elliott said knowing that Mayor Perrin and the city council are on board with reevaluating officer pay is a big step in the right direction to boosting morale at the department.