New HPD payscale gets nod

By BUSTER WOLFE,

A new pay scale for the Hattiesburg Police Department personnel – setting salaries based on years of service and completion of educational degrees – received unanimous approval from the City Council on Tuesday during a special called meeting at City Hall.

Mayor Toby Barker said the salary progression established in the pay scale provides a clear picture of what personnel in the police department can expect to earn.

“Now any officer can see where they can go with their career, whether they stay as a patrol officer or become a lieutenant or captain,” he said after the meeting. “You can see a career path all the way to chief now. That’s what this does; it is going to be a valuable tool for recruitment and retention.”

Barker thanked the personnel who formulate the pay scale.

“I am very proud of the staff that worked on it, the police department and I am very proud of the City Council for unanimously approving it,” he said.

The pay scale provides a base salary for police officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major and assistant chief and increases incrementally for years of service and completion of associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Each base salary increases $1,500 for each year of service and $1,000 for each degree.

For example, a starting police officer earns $35,000 annually. After one year, the pay would increase to $36,500, with another $1,000 for an associate’s degree, $2,000 for bachelor’s degree or $3,000 for master’s degree. A police officer with 10 years of service with a master’s degree would earn $51,500.

Barker said rewarding officers for earning a college degree is important.

“(Providing more pay for educational degrees) reflects the kind of police force that is very community-driven,” he said. “We want someone who knows what the latest research says in public safety. Those things make us a smarter, safer city.”

The funds for the first round of raises was set aside in the current budget, Barker said, and they will be put in place beginning April 1.

Also unanimously approved by the City Council during Tuesday’s meeting were personnel adjustments in the Parks & Recreation, Administration, Water & Sewer and Police departments. Barker said the moves – along with the revised pay scale in the Police Department – are designed to streamline city government and make it operate more efficiently.

“We are starting to create really quality departments from top to bottom,” he said. “As we look at the city’s organizational structure and we figure out how best to mold certain positions, take away certain positions, anytime there’s a retirement or someone transfers out, it is an opportunity to look at that position and see if we need it, see if those duties can be divided among other people. It affords us the opportunity to give some salary increases to people who haven’t had them in a long time. Also we save some money for the General Fund, which happened (Tuesday). I think it was a win-win across the board in all of those departments.”

Barker said he believes the organizational chart for the city is getting into a better focus.

“It’s getting to be more and more like a puzzle, but it’s coming together now,” he said. “We are seeing the pieces fit better together. I think in about two months, you are going to look at our Purchasing Department, which in previous times might have been not so certain, and it’s going to become one of the strongest divisions because we are incentivizing quality folks to come in and say.”

Retention and recruitment are key reasons for defining personnel in each department, Barker said.

“I am very proud of the moves we have been able to make, even though they have taken a few months to make,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good pieces in the city and it’s a matter of trying to retain the very best and trying to identify who the next round of playmakers are going to be in these departments. A lot of folks are just waiting on the opportunity.”