JONESBORO – Police officers at Arkansas State University will receive the same $5,000 one-time stipend as other law enforcement officials in the state, as well as a new pay structure that will provide raises, university officials announced this week.
The University Police Department also will see its pay scales and benefits back on par with other agencies in the region and state with the adjustment.
“On behalf of Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, we want to thank both our university and ASU System administrators that have made this essential change to our police officer compensation happen,” Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Len Frey said. “Without their support, we would not be able to make this important upgrade.”
“I appreciate what the Chancellor and Dr. Frey have done for our officers,” UPD Chief Randy Martin said. “They have collaborated with the system and the state to make a vital change for our department.”
The one-time stipends signed into law in March for many agencies originally did not include sworn officers at universities, but recent changes have made it possible for A-State and other universities in the state to match the stipends provided by state, local and county law enforcement.
“Chief Martin came to me when we learned about the problem, and I’m very appreciative that we had immediate support from the Chancellor and the System to work on the stipends,” Frey said. UPD reports to the Division of Finance and Administration which Frey oversees. “But with that solved, our base pay for our officers quickly became an equal issue in retention.”
Locally and regionally, municipalities have voted to increase pay for their officers, resulting in the university losing several of its certified uniformed officers.
Beginning July 1, the starting salary for a uniformed officer will increase at A-State from $38,240 to $43,976, with an additional 5.5% shift differential for evenings and nights. The new salary is paired with available on-campus housing for officers and other benefits including family educational discounts for higher education to enhance UPD’s ability to recruit officers.
The $5,000 retention stipend will be available to all certified officers and police officer applicants hired by Jan. 31, 2023, who complete basic police training by May 31, 2023.
“As we’ve said in the past, we are looking for individuals with a commitment to community policing and an understanding of the important role our officers play in the educational experience of students,” Frey said. “Having a benefit of on-campus housing places our officers in the heart of our campus community, and provides them with a great place to live and work.”
Current officers will receive the $5,000 stipend, and future adjustments to salaries for existing UPD staff are being explored.
Throughout the pandemic, UPD has seen both workload increase and staffing decline. Last fall, the department changed from three shifts to two 12-hour shifts to meet the demand. Overtime hours have grown as officers departed for better pay opportunities in other towns or left the profession all together.
“These changes will help us find new officers, but it’s not as simple as hiring quality candidates for any police department,” Martin said. “If a replacement officer is untrained, they must attend and complete a 13-week training course at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, and an additional 12 weeks of field training.”
The investment in bringing an officer to independent patrol status is an important reason for the benefit increases.
“If we are not competitive with our salaries and benefits, we are just training officers for other cities to recruit from us,” Martin said.
A-State provided a significant increase in 2019 prior to the pandemic which helped UPD move close to full staffing, and resulted in much lower overtime hours. However, starting in early 2021, the department saw more departures and resulting overtime. Martin believes these changes will help him rebuild staffing.
To learn more about the A-State UPD go to AState.edu/Police.
Original article source: http://www.astate.edu/news/upd-to-receive-stipend-pay-upgrade | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council