Police compensation study now before Scottsdale City Council

Downtown Scottsdale has become a nightlife success and political target. (File Photo)

Downtown Scottsdale has become a nightlife success and political target. (File Photo)

The city of Scottsdale has finished a comprehensive study on police officer compensation that compares its police force to five other Valley cities in an effort to make sure members of the Scottsdale Police Department are “paid equitably and fairly.”

Top city and police officials have been meeting regularly to discuss and evaluate the findings of the cross-department study.

Scottsdale City Council will hear the final report on the study and subsequent discussions 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill

“We were looking for how staffing levels have been affected,” said Jim Hill, president of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association, in a Jan. 27 phone interview.
POSA had combed through records outlining the last several years of police staffing levels.

“We are really trying to see how that has affected us. And, it has affected what we can and cannot do — there is a point when you are doing less with less.”

The amount of sworn officers patrolling Scottsdale streets decreased from fiscal year 2010-11 — when there were 423 full-time equivalent officers employed at SPD — until last fiscal year when there were 414 full-time equivalent officers employed, records show.

The amount of all personnel at SPD in fiscal year 2010-11 was 688.9 full-time equivalent employees, while last fiscal year that number shrunk to 673.60 full-time equivalent employees, records show.

According to the Feb. 8 staff report, there are 328 police officers employed this fiscal year at the SPD.

“What I don’t want to see is downsizing,” Officer Hill said of the recent five-year trend.

“You can’t bring in so many thousands of people to work here … and then say we need to be staffed as a bedroom community. That’s absurd.”

With the exceptions of the Town of Gilbert and city of Chandler, Scottsdale employs the fewest amount of officers compared to the other departments included in the survey. The numbers are:

  • Scottsdale — 328 officers with a salary range from $54,932.80 to $79,664
  • Chandler — 252 officers with a salary range from $53,328 to $75,737
  • Gilbert — 187 officers with a salary range from $52,250 to $73,528
  • Glendale — 529 officers with a salary range from $52,492 to $73,851
  • Mesa — 674 officers with a salary range from $54,192.70 to $76,502.40
  • Phoenix — 2,356 officers with a salary range from $46,238 to $72,426

Officer Hill says he wants to see real solutions developed by Scottsdale City Council to help keep good officers within Scottsdale ranks.

“We need to give police officers time so they can actually do community policing,” he said. “Right now we are in a tough spot. We have to take it one step at a time. We are in a precarious position because we want more bodies but we also want more compensation.”

The city of Scottsdale employs 1.1 police officer per 1,000 residents within a total population of 224,800. The Town of Gilbert, in comparison, has a population of 231,200 and employs .5 officers per 1,000 residents, the Feb. 10 staff report states.

“There are a lot of things at play, but we don’t want to see people play in the 1,000-person scenarios,” Officer Hill contends.

The cost of doing business

While downtown Scottsdale has become a hotbed for nightlife activity it’s not all roses and knife fights — but the knife fights have become more prevalent, according to Scottsdale advocate Bill Crawford.

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

“I do,” he said when asked if he thought it was more dangerous today to patrol Scottsdale streets then in calendar year 2010. “Scottsdale through the bar district has ushered in a demographic that has never been present in Scottsdale before.”

Mr. Crawford owns Basic Training at 4390 N. Miller Road in downtown Scottsdale. He contends property crime is on the rise in certain parts of Scottsdale.

“We have noticed an increase in burglaries, car thefts and break-ins,” he said of the area surrounding his business. “Every gang is represented in downtown Scottsdale on any weekend night.”

Reports of violent crime, however, specifically aggravated assault charges, have remained relatively level since calendar year 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting data housed by the FBI and provided by the Scottsdale Police Department.

In 2009 and 2011 there were the most charges of aggravated assault with 411 in 2009 and 400 in 2011 compared to the fewest in years 2012 and 2013 with 329 reported in 2012 and 337 reported in 2013.

“We’ve got just maybe a better situational awareness in law enforcement,” Mr. Crawford said. “Not crimes, but some situations that were handled in the street weren’t reported. It may have resulted in some under reporting of the crimes in the area.”

David Smith

David Smith

Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith feels the issue at the police department has nothing to do with staffing levels or the levels of crimes reported — but rather compensation.

“It will be interesting to see what those results are,” he said in a Jan. 27 phone interview. “The two issues are somewhat separate — police pay vs. public safety.

There is some relationship between the two, but in my mind I try to keep the two subjects separate.”

Councilman Smith say he wants to better understand the department’s turnover rate compared to neighboring employment opportunities.

“I really haven’t seen any evidence of that,” he said of the notion that police officers are leaving Scottsdale for greener pastures. “If it is going on then we will figure out a way to address it.”

Councilman Smith says the heart of the issue involves the lack of an incremental step program for annual bumps in pay for sworn personnel. He says pay increases are something police advocates want, but the council has been reluctant to grant.

“What they (police officers) wanted when I was treasurer is to re-adopt the step program. I think we did not do it largely because No. 1, we didn’t have the money, and we weren’t convinced that there was a compensation disparity.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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