Police pay incentives approved

Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Competition for police officers is so stiff statewide that in one case Clovis taxpayers paid for an officer’s training only to lose him after two weeks on the streets.

The pricetag for those two weeks: roughly $40,000, Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey said.

That type of figure, along with a myriad of issues related to retaining and recruiting police officers, has Clovis city commissioners and law enforcement officials screaming for change.

Commissioners on Thursday night unanimously approved a $43,986 incentive package that they say will help but not cure the problems of the police department.

“I’m tired of the city of Clovis being a training ground … and us spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (to) train our officers and the next thing you know they’re going to another (department),” Commissioner Kevin Duncan said.

The incentive will come to an average of $815 per officer annually, and includes bonus pay for officers based on their abilities and training.

For example, officers will receive an additional $50 a month if they speak fluent Spanish, and another $50 if they are trained to handle hazardous assignments like the disposing of methamphetamine laboratories.

The issue of retaining and recruiting officers, poor pay, increased violent crime and keeping qualified personnel on the streets spearheaded a recent drive by roughly 35 Clovis police officers to form a union, members of the Clovis Police Officers Association say.

Keith Farkas, vice president of the association, described the incentive package as a “baby step” in the right direction.

“They need to do a lot more, not only with pay incentive and pay plans, but they also need to fix the culture within the police department and the city,” Farkas said. “It’s not a quick fix.”

Carey said he has two officers training in Hobbs, and personnel from other police departments are heavily recruiting them.

Police must train 46 weeks before they can be certified. The Clovis Police Department will pay the estimated $54,000 for each officer’s training and salary for that year.

The problem, Carey said, is many officers will work in Clovis for a year — sometimes less — and leave for a department that will pay more money.

Starting salary for a certified police officer in Clovis is $13.82. Starting salary in other departments in the state can be $15 or $16 an hour, city officials said.

The department has 43 officers who have less than five years experience, Carey said. There are 54 employees of the Clovis Police Department, a handful of which are dispatchers, Carey said. The department is 11 officers from being fully staffed.

The department has been short-staffed since the beginning of the year, but have only been able to entice 80 applicants for jobs in Clovis. Of those applicants, 51 took the required test and only 21 passed. Eleven failed background tests and only six have been hired and are now in training.

Also at the meeting:

• The commission approved the allocation of $45,939 to build a storm water retention pond at the Glen Oaks Addition, near the intersection of Norris and Llano Estacado.
The owner of the addition will pay the remaining $11,485 to complete the project, but the city will own the pond and maintain the area surrounding it.

• In a 5-2 vote, the commission appointed Len Vohs, sales manager for Rooney and Moon Broadcasting, as a District 2 representative on the Public Works Committee. Vohes will fill the shoes of Lonnie Leslie, who is moving to District 1.

• The commission sold 2.073 acres of land at the Southwest Cheese Plant site to Farmers Electric Cooperative for $4,146.