If you’ve noticed fewer faces donning the uniform of the Sandy Police Department recently, it might be because the department is slightly understaffed.
Since the first of this year, six Sandy police officers have left the Sandy PD for jobs in other cities, said Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker.
In 2009, when the economy took a turn for the worse, most departments in the state had to get rid of their pay scales, the systems that were created to make sure officers knew how much they’d be making each year until they retired.
“We couldn’t maintain it,” Thacker said. “We didn’t know how much money we were going to have that goes into that budget.”
An officer left Sandy for West Valley City about four months ago, which prompted Sandy PD Human Resources to look into what West Valley pays its officers. They found that the city had re-implemented its pay scale system. Newly-hired officers that came from other cities were placed into the scale where they would have been had they worked for the West Valley PD the entire time, which meant that West Valley could afford to pay $3 to $4 more per hour than Sandy could.
“They were bringing officers in and saying, ‘We’ll give you year-for-year on our pay scale for what kind of seniority you have,’” Thacker said.
After seeing this new information, Sandy PD looked at other cities’ salary systems to figure out where the discrepancy was in its system. The department found that while its starting and ending pay rates were on par with other cities (and higher, in some cases), the middle years of an officer’s career had a lower pay rate due to the way pay increases were distributed.
“Rather than look at the top and the bottom, we said, ‘Okay, what does a beginning officer make, and what does a five, 10, 15 and 20-year officer make?’” Thacker said. “Our bottom was good, within a percent of what other places were starting officers at. Our top was one of the highest among our sister cities. In the middle, though, it was leveling off and dropping down, and then coming back up again toward the end. The whole middle area is what we had to address.”
The Sandy PD is now looking into what it can do as a temporary solution to entice officers to stay in Sandy. Bonuses and other incentives will be implemented using this year’s budget money, as approved by the Sandy City Council.
On July 1, 2015, the start of the next budget year, the department expects to have a new pay scale system in place. The proposed system will balance the pay increases much more evenly, fixing the dip in the middle years and offering competitive pay compared to other departments around Utah.
“We found the problem, and now we’re working to fix it,” Thacker said. “We can make our department the place that people want to work if we’re competitive.”