Once ranked high, officer salaries trail behind many other police departments in the state
By Caroline Cherry Averitt | Contributor
Delta Digital News Service
June 21, 2023
JONESBORO, Ark. – Jonesboro Police Department Chief Rick Elliott requested the city increase the salaries for police officers due to inflation, salary changes across the state and recruitment problems.
Elliott spoke made the requests during the Public Safety Council Committee meeting to discuss the Police Pay and Retention Plan on Tuesday.
“We’re seeing the same problem here in Jonesboro, trying to recruit and retain quality officers. So, we just kind of laid out tonight, the makeup of the department, the number of losses over the past several years and what can be done to address that,” Elliott said.
“We’re seeing the same problem here in Jonesboro, trying to recruit and retain quality officers.”…
– Rick Elliott, JPD Police Chief
Elliott said over the past 18 months, 35 officers left the department. Some quit, others retired and a few were fired. He said he believes many officers left because of pay.
“I know several officers that have applied with the Arkansas State Police and again, their pay scale compared to any other state in the state is as off the chart. And you know, I can’t necessarily compete with that,” he said.
He said he wants to provide competitive salaries in order to keep officers, not only from leaving for other forces, but also for leaving to work other jobs that pay more than law enforcement.
Mayor Harold Copenhaver said police salaries have increased since his election.
“We have the largest police force in this part of the state of Arkansas with 175 officers, and I take pride in that. So, when I became mayor, then we have made substantial adjustments to police pay,” he said.
“We have the largest police force in this part of the state of Arkansas with 175 officers, and I take pride in that. So, when I became mayor, then we have made substantial adjustments to police pay.”
– Harold Copenhaver, Mayor of the City of Jonesboro
Even with these adjustments, Elliott said salaries still need to be raised in order to compete with other Arkansas police departments that also are making adjustments to salaries.
“Not five months ago, we were in the top five when it came to starting pay in the state of Arkansas, and now we’re in the middle to lower area of that just in four months,” he said.
The police department is also dealing with issues regarding applicants. Out of the 130 applicants this year, only six have met the department standards.
“We see a lot of applicants. But at the end of the day, they don’t meet our standards to go to work here,” Elliot said.
Additionally, Elliot said some officers leave the force due to the traumatic nature of the job. “These officers go to work and the things that they see day in and day out, is very troubling to them. I mean, we’re seeing bad accidents, we’re seeing death cases. You know, and it’s hard for them to emotionally process,” he said.
Councilman Brian Emison, Ward 1, Position 2 seat, attended the Public Safety Council Committee meeting. He said he believes police salaries need to be adjusted.
“The world has dramatically changed, especially in regards to inflation and in pay, and these are the individuals that allow us to go to sleep at night and able to rest in our beds and not have to worry,” Emison said.
“The world has dramatically changed, especially in regards to inflation and in pay, and these are the individuals that allow us to go to sleep at night and able to rest in our beds and not have to worry.”
– Brian Emison, Public Safety Councilman
He said, as a councilman, he wants to do what he can to address issues and take care of the needs of law enforcement and first responders.
“No matter how much money we ever pay them, it’ll never be enough for what they do and the sacrifices their family makes. So, just being able to show our appreciation to them and also being able to provide safety to the citizens of Jonesboro, I think should be the utmost priority, because what is a quality of life if you can’t preserve life at the end of the day,” he said.
Elliott said he feels hopeful his issues will be addressed.
“Now, I’m a realist about things and I think we can come to a compromise to have something that will suit the needs of our people,” Elliott said.
The Public Safety Committee Council plans to either begin the next meeting earlier or call a special session in order to have more time to address the department’s issues.
“I believe in our police officers and I believe in public safety,” Copenhaver said.
Caroline Cherry Averitt is a junior at Arkansas State University from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Her major is multimedia journalism with a minor in writing studies concentrating in creative writing. She can be reached at: [email protected]
JPD Chief Rick Elliott requests salary increase for officers. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council