By Darrell Todd Maurina
The Clovis Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday morning to recommend the city raise pay for dispatchers, but took no action on a petition signed by about 800 residents asking for several steps to help retain police officers, including increased pay.
Several on the committee rebuked police for organizing the petition.
“I was very offended by the petition,” said Commissioner Juan Garza. “Although they have the right to do that, I thought that’s what this (public safety) committee is for, to work out these problems.”
Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he did a random survey of 27 people about police pay issues and didn’t find community support for raising police pay.
“Of these 27 people, not one person knew what the police were making, and after I told them, they all said they didn’t know the police were making that much money,” Sandoval said. “There’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation out there, and the public is not aware of all this information.”
Several Clovis police officers were present at the meeting but none addressed the committee.
Acting as chairman of the meeting, Commissioner Kevin Duncan said he didn’t want the police to believe their concerns were being ignored.
“We do have street problems, we do have sewer problems, it goes on and on,” Duncan said. “I just encourage the employees to understand where the budget is and where the money comes from.”
The dispatchers fared better, and the committee unanimously approved a proposal from Capt. Leon Morris to raise pay from the current rates of $9.05 to $11 per hour to $9.25 to $12 per hour for non-certified new hires. Certified dispatchers with at least one year experience would start with a minimum wage of $9.50 per hour; certified emergency medical dispatchers would start with a $9.75 minimum wage.
Morris said one reason for the pay increase is that those who have stayed with the department for a few years have reached the top of the pay scale, and the department has no incentive to offer dispatchers with greater experience or who are certified.
“I recently hired a person from Hobbs who was a certified dispatcher with three years experience, and I had to start that person out at $9.05,” Morris said. “If I have someone come in off the street who knows nothing about dispatching, we have to start them out at $9.05 an hour too. We’re missing out on a number of good certified dispatchers from other departments.”
Morris said the proposal would cost the city about $500 per month or $6,000 per year.