DALLAS — Sergeants in the Dallas Police Department received a mid-budget-year raise in March after Police Chief Tom Simpson discovered that some officers they supervise would soon be earning more money.
Simpson said the issue was brought to his attention earlier this year. The problem arises from scheduled raises negotiated with the officers union. Sergeants, of which there are four, and other supervisors in the department are not represented by a union, and don’t receive regular salary increases like those represented by the union, Simpson said.
According to salary scales provided by the city of Dallas, before the salary bump for sergeants, a first-step sergeant was making less than a first-step officer earning incentive pay. Incentives that earn extra compensation include: Being bilingual, having a college degree, and higher levels of police certification, Simpson said. Dallas officers receive incentive pay, but sergeants do not.
On the other end of the scale, a top-step sergeant made 5.8 percent more than a top-step officer earning incentive pay. The salary figures were from the 2018-19 fiscal year, when the increase was requested and went into effect. With the new fiscal year that began on July 1, raises given to topped-out officers would have erased that advantage if the sergeants’ salary scale hadn’t been increased.
According to the stats, entry-level officers make $4,734 per month. With incentives, the salary tops out at $5,609. For the highest paid officers, the base salary is $5,900 and $6,992 with incentives. New sergeants make $5,038 and don’t earn more money for incentives. Top-step sergeants make $7,396 with no increases for incentives.
“This tight compression occurred because our officers are members of the collective bargaining unit and had programmed raises over the years,” Simpson said. “Over time, the compression problem surfaces and they needed to be looked at.”
Simpson evaluated the pay differential of his sergeants and officers compared to other police departments, including the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and Independence and Monmouth police departments.
Dallas has a population of 15,830, according to 2018 estimates from the Portland State University Population Research Center. Other departments he looked at were Canby (pop. 16,800), Lebanon (pop. 16,920), Sherwood (pop. 19,505) and St. Helens (pop. 13,240). Independence is at 9,370, and Monmouth has a population of 9,890.
He found that the average salary difference between a top-paid officer and top-paid sergeant was 21.6 percent.
“Our compression ratio was 5.8 percent,” Simpson said. “I brought this to the attention of the city manager and requested that he increase the sergeants pay scale to bring the compression ratio more in sync with other agencies similar to ours, and he approved the request.”
The request was to increase the scale by $1,100 to bring the percentage more in line with the average. That has the top sergeant salary at $8,496. The average of the six other agencies is $8,095, which includes incentive pay for all but Sherwood, which, like Dallas, doesn’t offer incentive pay to sergeants.
The top of the salary scale for sergeants in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was $7,447. In Independence, the top sergeant is paid $7,760, while in Monmouth the top of the salary scale is $7,347. Canby pays its top sergeants the most at $9,347.
“If I did nothing, the next time I have a vacancy for a sergeant, for some officers who might be considering that career path, they would have needed to accept a decrease in compensation in order to promote,” Simpson said. “Our supervisors have a lot more responsibilities and peripheral duties and, due to the natural of the assignment within a police agency, incur more exposure to liability. It just didn’t make sense to expect someone to take on the extra work and liability at less compensation.”
The Dallas City Council recently passed a public safety fee, adding $5 to monthly water bills of Dallas residents to pay for two firefighters and two police officers. The fee is projected to bring in $420,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year, with $220,000 of that going to pay for two officers.
Simpson said proceeds from the fee will not be used to pay for the raises, which cost $4,400 per month. He added he would have requested the increase regardless of whether the fee was implemented.
“Aside from being a related budgetary expense, it is not directly related to other pay matters such as merit increases or contractual obligations per our collective bargaining agreement,” Simpson said. “Even if the council had chosen not to start to police and fire services fee, I would have needed to ask for this increase for our supervisors. The fact that July of this year would have found some of their subordinates being compensated more than they were as supervisors was compelling.”
Simpson said that the raises were necessary to recruit and retain officers.
“Keeping our compensation packages comparable with other agencies in our region — in a sense, those with whom we practically compete for quality employees — is the forefront in most administrators’ minds,” Simpson said.
He said the increase brought Dallas to near the average percent of differential between subordinate and supervisor, but not among the highest.
“Our goal is to be as frugal as possible with the funding we’re entrusted to use to run our agency, while also trying to be smart about making our agency one where police candidates want to serve,” Simpson said.