Police pay-raise package awaits city commission approval

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

The public safety committee voted unanimously Thursday to recommend the Clovis City Commission approve a $714,000 plan to increase wages at the Clovis Police Department.

Police officers pleaded with the committee to push the issue to the city commission, a necessary step they said will make Clovis more attractive to certified police officers and will help resolve what they described as a crisis situation.

“We are in a crisis situation and we have to draw certified police officers,” Police Chief Bill Carey said in the meeting. “We’ve got to be competitive.”

Two plans were presented at the meeting, one based on existing city numbers that would cost the city $432,000, and one referred to as the competitive plan that would cost $714,000. Officers pressed for the competitive plan, which the committee voted to send to the city commission for approval at Thursday’s city commission meeting.

The plan would increase the minimum salary of an officer with one year experience to $15.45 an hour from $13.35. The minimum a sergeant would make would be $20.76 an hour, almost $5 more than what the lowest paid sergeant in the department is making now.

Mayor David Lansford made an impassioned plea to the committee endorsing the plan and asked them to take action now and put this issue to bed.

“Anytime you take action, whether it is in favor of this or that group, there are risks involved,” Lansford said in the meeting. “I would suggest that every conflict that exists in life boils down to the fact that someone doesn’t believe they’re valued. We’re not going to listen to legal advice, we are going to listen to our hearts. We are going to tell law enforcement that they are valuable.”

He also made it clear that he believes the police department needs to unionize its force, thereby enacting it to come up with coherent arguments when making its case to the commission in the future.

“Nobody understands the circumstances that you go through every day,” he said. “Collectively you can organize, present your case to the bargaining process, and we can hear a professional argument instead of the piecemeal argument that we’ve been hearing over the last several months.”

Capt. Dan Blair of the Clovis Police said an increased crime rate — in homicides and burglaries — is caused in part by an understaffed force unable to focus its efforts on crime.

“This is about public safety in our community. We have not been able to concentrate where we need to — due to our manning — on crime,” Blair said after the meeting. “We need to recruit certified officers in here. We’ve been behind for quite a while, and it’s time to catch up.”

Former recruiter for Clovis Police, Bob Morgan, said his experience in recruitment has convinced him money is the primary issue certified officers consider when choosing a department.

“(Money) has become a critical issue,” he said. “This has never been about getting a raise. This is about having a pay plan that will allow us to compensate police officers appropriately and maintain that level of skill and experience that we invest so heavily in them.”

Clovis officers speaking in the meeting repeatedly said the funding is not about a pay raise for the officers, but a needed move to compete with other departments around the state. They say the department is in a crisis situation, and the only solution is to attract certified officers to the department.

Committee members worried that the move would put pressure on city management to raise wages in other departments.