Recently, at the direction of the human resources director and city manager, the Budget and Research Department conducted a class and comp study of the Police Department to determine where our officers ranked in regard to hourly pay with our peers in the Valley. The outcome of that study determined that our overall compensation was not completely out of line; however, our hourly rate was significantly lower than most of all the other Valley agencies. A significant amount of our compensation was in the form of Career Enhancement Pay and Performance Enhancement Pay (longevity).
The HR director, David Mathews, had discussed with PLEA about the possibility of rolling CEP into the base wage in addition to the City increasing the pay steps for all officers so that our hourly rate would be more competitive. I told Mathews that it would be considered so long as all officers currently participating in CEP would be given credit for the step that they had worked so hard to obtain. Several months later, he presented us with the first iteration of the revised pay plan.
This new pay scale makes us not only competitive in a time when officers are most needed, but now the market leader in the state.
Mathews explained that not only would each Unit 4 member be given credit for their current CEP step, but they would also be given credit for their current longevity. He told us that Budget and Research had established an all-new pay scale with Steps 1 through 9 and laid out how each officer would be placed within it. We expressed concern over the fact that officers were not being transferred to the new pay scale at the same step that they were at currently. We were told that no one was going to be making less than what they were currently making. In addition, Mathews told us that the goal of the City was to compensate our police officers at a rate at approximately 10% higher than all other police officers in the state. Their initial scale had not considered the most current and pending contracts from other cities in the Valley. Being a part of the Arizona Police Association, PLEA already had access to the leadership of those organizations, and thus those pending contracts were able to be obtained and provided to Mathews. After taking that new information into consideration, and continued discussions about the implementation date of the new pay scale, it was presented to PLEA leadership and the membership via Zoom informational meetings.
The City Council approved the restructuring as presented at the council meeting held on June 15. It will go into effect on August 8.
Understand that this change in the pay ordinance was not something PLEA negotiated. The only thing the City needed PLEA to agree to was to roll CEP into the base wage, which has been encouraged by the membership for years. However, because of the positive working relationship we have with Mathews, we were able to have some influence over several things regarding the compensation at the actual steps and the timing of the implementation. Regardless, the City was moving forward with this new pay step reorganization. If we chose not to roll CEP into the base wage, each step would have been reduced by $7,613.
This new pay scale makes us not only competitive in a time when police officers are most needed, but now the market leader in the state. Our Department has never experienced the extreme staffing crisis that we currently find ourselves in. We have been routinely losing experienced officers to surrounding jurisdictions as well as an untold number of applicants to other cities due to the pay scale.
In addition, the most senior officers within the Department are guaranteed at least two and a half years of wage increases as the country experiences a huge financial crisis.
Is this new plan perfect and how we would have preferred it implemented? Not exactly, however, we are encouraged that Mathews recognized that the hourly rate we were at currently was not competitive and made a point to come up with a plan to fix it.
Moving forward, as we gear up for negotiations that begin in January 2023, we can now focus our efforts on ancillary compensation. For example, larger payouts of sick leave upon retirement, increasing the standby pay along with night and weekend differentials, potential health benefits after retirement and a host of other things. Items that have not been considered in decades, as any increase to our overall package was routinely applied to our hourly rate. We now have the ability to address these other items of compensation.
Overall, I believe that PLEA has never been in such an advantageous position. Don’t believe for a second that I feel the only reason we were having trouble with retaining officers and detectives was all about compensation. While it is an important piece of the overall puzzle, the lack of support most feel from City government and the Department is a huge contributing factor. While the compensation piece has been addressed, it is now time to start changing the narrative. It is time for City and Department leadership to stand up and express their support publicly for the brave men and women of the Phoenix Police Department. It is time for the larger community of supporters, who we know are out there, to become more boisterous to drown out the small group of critics. Contrary to the negative rhetoric that seems to get all the coverage by the media, the officers and detectives of the Phoenix Police Department are second to none. I have proudly served with some of the finest, most kindhearted people on the planet.