Tempe tops, Chandler near bottom in police pay

Katie McDevitt
East Valley Tribune
January 10, 2008 – 9:54AM

Tempe pays new police officers more than any other East Valley agency. Maricopa County and Chandler pay among the least. Veteran Tempe officers work the fewest hours and get paid the most on average, while Mesa officers are among the lowest-paid and work more hours than average.
These are some of the findings of a Policepay.net study funded by Valley police unions to take an “independent” look at salaries and benefits, according to Mesa Police Association President Sgt. Fabian Cota.
“We felt (the analysis) was a really important thing to do because we know that it’s a very competitive market among cities,” Cota said.

“We felt the best way to go about it was to hire an independent company and make the report available to the public … free of any biases some of the city things may have had.”
Cota said city human resource departments generally analyze such issues, so a group of local police unions paid about $15,000 to Policepay.net to compile a report for them. The analysis began in June and was completed Nov. 15.
Cota said his union plans to use the report in negotiations with Mesa and, if necessary, will share it with the City Council. This week, he will also go over the report with police Chief George Gascón.
“It certainly showed where our weaknesses are,” Cota said. “We understand the city’s financial situation and we are cognizant of that, but this is kind of a road map of where we need to go.”
Chandler Law Enforcement Association President officer Paul Babeau said the report’s findings are most disconcerting in how they’ll affect the city’s ability to recruit.
“When one agency can hire at $8,000 to $10,000 to $12,000 more, that’s a very real issue for recruiting and for hiring the very best police officers,” Babeau said.
Babeau said a shrinking police applicant pool also increases the need to pay incoming officers more.
The report says incoming officers in Chandler start at a base pay of $46,571, compared with Scottsdale’s $47,965 and Tempe’s $54,010.

Paradise Valley officers’ pay starts at the highest in the Valley, but that agency only hires officers with prior service in other agencies.
“When I tested 5 1/2 years ago, there were over 500 applicants. … You couldn’t find a seat in there,” Babeau said. “Now we’re seeing 60, 70, 80 people that are testing.”
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
The report says Phoenix offers more money for education than Mesa and offers special pay for officers employed for more than eight years who meet specific goals, as well as career-enhancement pay for officers earning certifications and acquiring certain skills.
Cota said he would like to see Mesa officers compensated for staying physically fit.
“We seem to be so focused on direct compensation that we’re behind in these other areas,” Cota said. “That became glaringly apparent.”

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