JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro City Council Chambers were filled to capacity Tuesday night. The meeting started at 5:30 p.m., but by 4:50 p.m., the Jonesboro Fire Department had to turn people away because the room was full.
The topic that drew so many people there: police pay.
It's an issue that Jonesboro officers have been trying to resolve for years. Officers at JPD have low wages compared to other departments in the state. They also have no way to advance to their pay from minimum salaries.
Tuesday night, Jonesboro City Employee Representative Larry Jackson said it's something all city employees face, not just the uniformed ones.
"We're not here to boycott. We didn't bring any backhoes or tractors or mowers to put out there in the parking lot and boycott and cause a problem," Jackson said, referencing the police parking protest at Jonesboro City Hall earlier this year.
When it came time for the council to consider the ordinance, it was held to just one reading, per Police Chief Rick Elliott's request.
Despite the motion to hold the ordinance, officer spouses and officers themselves got up before the packed house and made their voices heard.
"Please understand that these officers have been asking for this for two years," Haley Stout said. "So let's take care of that and then work on the rest of the city and the non-uniform officers."
Stout, an officer's wife, asked the council to support the men and women who protect and serve the city.
"As families of these officers, we are here to show our support for the job they do every day. We are asking you to support the police pay proposal to show these officers that you support what they do each day," Stout said.
Following Stout's speech, Officer Heath Loggains spoke before the council about his experience as an underpaid officer.
"Throughout the last 5 years that I've sat through committees and council meetings and everything else. We've always been told 'We're going to postpone it,'" Loggains said. "I'm going to make this a bit more personal for you, during those 5 years, I was a single dad. During those 5 years, I relied on second, sometimes third, sometimes fourth jobs, where I was working 18 hours a day after working a regular 8-hour shift for the city, just to make ends meet."
Loggains, who has been on the force 9 years, said every time the issue is postponed, it's like being slapped in the face.
"Right now, I'm at $33,981. That's after 9 years of being here, I'm a mid-point guy," Loggains said. "I have a trainee who I've had for 6 days now. Her pay is $32,429. That's a difference of $1,552 for 9 years of my life that I've given to this city."
After the meeting, Chief Elliott addressed his officers. He explained that Councilman Dover told him Tuesday afternoon that he and some of the finance committee members are working on a salary plan for non-uniform employees also.
"By taking our numbers, they think they can incorporate what we've got and come up with something across the city," said Chief Elliott. "We're ready for this to go forward to the second and third reading for the council, and if they have anything that's comparable or better we'll stop and take a look at it."
Chief Elliott said that Councilman Dover wanted to address some issues he had with the proposed police pay step plan too.
Per that plan, patrolmen would get a raise at 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years.
"He saying maybe look at a scale of say $1,000 every year. You're still accomplishing the same goal of getting to your mid-point in 10 years. The scale itself is kind of irrelevant," Chief Elliott said.
The next city council meeting is September 20 at 5:30 p.m.
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