Pay, Morale, and Days off – Roanoke Police are Sick and Tired

Comments: 0

Bear with me here. I need to weight in on some recent news.

Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham has acknowledged that compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living in the Roanoke region and previous efforts to recruit and retain police officers as factors influencing the pay and benefits offered by the city to law enforcement officers.

Taken from 404 Not Found Blog on The Roanoke Times website (includes a video).

I see one major problem with the statement mentioned in the above blog by the City Manager. “compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living” I thought that the cost of living index was used to compare cities. Therefore if the compensation lags comparable cities in Virginia, the lower costs of living would have already been factored in. We still lag behind.

Now on to the issue of Pay Parity among Roanoke’s Public Safety

“The starting salary for a city police officer is $31,213, which is less than that of some smaller departments in the area, such as the Roanoke County Police Department, where officers start at $31,825. But ever since December 2004, city officers have been getting bumped up to $34,802 after their first 18 months.”

Taken from Police stage protest over pay on the Roanoke Times.

The Police Department is already above the Fire Department. Our Firefighters don’t get that bump in pay grade after the 18 months. On top of that, the Officers receive the coveted career enhancement pay that the Firefighters have sought for many years. This means that Officers who are FTO’s, K-9, Tactical Team Members, College Graduates, etc. receive an extra percentage on top of their base pay, compounded during raises.

We have guys hired by the Fire Department made to be EMT’s over 15 years ago and they only get $100 a month, not compounded, not factored on any raise, never been reassessed in 15+ years.

Is there pay parity? There has certainly been give and take as far as various public safety departments receiving raises and other departments piggy backing on each other. This process has worked out pretty good in the past considering the pay and benefit obstacles we face in Roanoke.

I have no issue with the Roanoke Police staging a “protest” to wake the city up to the issues facing their department. I think that they got the attention they were looking for.

However, I am not so sure I would have jumped so quick to picket as they did, which has only occurred a handful of times in the last 50 years between the Police and Fire Departments. Actually, I would have gone straight to City Council to sell my ideals and have them force the City Managers hand to prioritize. I like using the analogy of the trash cans downtown. Have you ever looked at those things, man they are nice. I bet the City spent a small fortune on them, only to come back and install custom cut logos on them made only by “Twists and Turns”, not the cheapest place in town. Prioritize I tell you. You could have stuck a $2 sticker on those damn things, they weren’t going anywhere.

I have the utmost respect for Police Officers as I do for all of Public Safety, especially Roanoke’s Finest and Bravest. I have no doubt that the Police Officers deserve the same 9% the entire City is behind in pay including more, as do we.

Danville just had an independent study completed and found out that their employees were 8% behind. So their “Elected Council” decided to give them 4% for the next two years. Hell that equals 8% right. Wrong. When you are 8% behind, you have to give them the 8% and whatever the increase is for that year just to catch up. Every year you neglect proper pay, the farther the employees fall into the abyss.

What happens then? Employees leave for better pay, better benefits, different jobs to be treated properly, morale tanks, people begin to not care as much, etc.

I have news for you, these things are happening. Ever since I have been here in Roanoke I have witnessed an ever tightening collar put on the Firefighters. A once well oiled machine has become a feeding frenzy with an “every man for himself” mentality. The Good Ole’ Boy network of long ago has reemerged with a dangerous cut throat attitude which is a product of needless micro management. Those who refuse to get wrapped up in this tornado are the ones who will walk away with their dignity.

Most of us have stuck with it, some have jumped ship giving up the job they love for ethical reasons, others have left to take the free fire/EMS education to other departments to make more money, and yet there are many Firefighters hoping that they will not lose their jobs due to loosely written policies backing an agenda which was written on a restaurant napkin and put into place for lack of care for a real solution to problems most departments have long put behind them.

Why do you think every ten or so years we get a big raise. Because we aren’t getting the raises we deserve annually during those 10 years. Think about the money that the City saves doing business like that. Now think about how that effects retirees each year the City holds off correcting the pay issues. That could mean the difference in $100′s of dollars a month, which means a lot to a retiring Firefighter who walks with 50% of the average of the last 3 years only after 25 years and reaching the rule of 70 (age + years of service = 70).

OK, enough about that. Now onto another topic today. Sheriff Johnson has been giving her Deputies their birthday off for the past 9 months for free, at no expense to the Deputy. Today she asked permission to do it. In my department, for those of us on the new pay plan there are two types of time off (uninjured); Paid Leave and Holiday, everything else is Absent WithOut Pay (AWOP).


I was sitting there watching the City Council meeting waiting for the magic question “Why are you bringing this up now?” which Councilwoman Mason finally asked. Johnson’s answer was something about how Human Resources had called her about it asking questions.

I have witnessed a lot of issues which I felt that the City was taking liberties interpreting the laws, policies, and regulations on the Local, State, and Federal stage. It seems as though you have to dig deep in your pockets just to call them on the issues and get a straight forward answer from the Courts to rectify the situation. Yet we have an Elected Official handing out free days off.

The City Lawyer stated that the Deputies already get more Holidays than most City workers because they get the State Holidays which the City doesn’t recognize. When asked what the days off cost, Johnson didn’t have an answer. However, she did state that the estimated cost of the remaining 59 Deputies to receive the free day off at $10,000. Therefore, using Fleitz math and the fact that there are around 240 deputies I believe, the total cost is around $40,000. Take it out of her check, you would if it were me.

When asked, the City Manager stated that if they get it everyone will want it. CORRECT. Sign me up. Who the hell wouldn’t want it.

Now for the other side of the coin.

The reason why Sheriff Johnson sited for giving the birthday off was for the low morale in the department. Kudos to Sheriff Johnson for trying to make a difference.

Not that our Chief hasn’t tried get us some extra benefits we deserve to increase morale. Remember the Career Enhancement pay I was talking about earlier. Our Chief has put in for it for several years, only to see it removed from the budget each year. The cost estimated at a mere $128,000. I think nearly a third of that was without permission over at the Sheriff’s Department. Again, the Police Officers get it.

Maybe we should start asking for forgiveness as well, it seems to be easier than asking for permission.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!