Why we fight against performance pay?

By Chris Adamczyk, Secretary

Aside from the many entries made by professionals decrying “performance based pay”, the biggest reason to oppose it is its subjectivity. Any supervisor, good or bad, would be placed in a position to determine an officer’s financial future, a prospect that would not be so bad if all supervisors were true leaders, but they are not. This opens the door to corruption, favoritism, and witch-hunts that could demoralize an entire department.

The entire process of “performance based pay” is fairly complicated, but what it amounts to is this: if your supervisor thinks you deserve a raise, you get one. If not, well then there is always next year. The criteria would be loosely based on the system we have right now, but it would also include the “who worked harder” category. This is where the subjectivity would reach its climax. How do you decide who is working harder? Is it based on statistics? If so then each section in the police department would need to devise its own system of counting progress. For a CST maybe it would be how many latent lifts they made, for a jailer it would be how many bookings they completed, and for a patrol officer is could be anything. But in the end, how can you point at a stat and say with any confidence that it is the only indicator of success?

I have long been a supporter of monthly stats, but my support goes only goes as far as the briefing room door. Stats are a way of building officer pride, and squad unity. A good supervisor recognizes that stats are one of many ways of seeing who the “hard chargers” are and who qualify as slugs. They use the stats to motivate and train. A bad supervisor uses the stats as a weapon to tarnish workstation files and deny privileges. What then happens when an officer feels that his or her livelihood is not the only thing that will suffer with low stats? How long does a person survive when their integrity is pitted against their personal economy?

Most of us have had to live through the cajoling about “ticket quotas” and other such non-sense. This banter would turn to out right hostility with performance based pay. Officers would feel compelled to lay aside their compassion for fear of not being able to make their house payment. And the public would be fully aware of the consequences. Police officers have a hard enough time eliciting information from people. This would only compound the problem and build a blue line thicker than anyone has ever seen.

Stats are the best of the worst-case scenarios; at least they are empirical. Imagine a subjective criteria dealing with attitude or perceived knowledge of policy. Performance based pay works well in sales and marketing, not in public safety. It is a bad idea born of even worse intentions.