In addition to now offering signing bonuses ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, Police Chief Mike Broadhead and City Manager Charles Penny propose to raise officer starting salaries to more than $50,000 as soon as Jan. 1, 2024, to address a 17-officer deficit in the Statesboro Police Department’s staffing.
They invoked the preliminary findings of a human resources consultant who is working on a pay study in pitching this plan to the mayor and City Council members during their Oct. 17 work session. The council approved the new hiring bonuses by a 3-0 vote during the regular meeting that followed. A vote on the salary increase would follow the consulting firm’s completion of the police and firefighter portion of the study.
“So, the current staffing issues did not occur overnight. It’s been going on for quite some time,” Broadhead began his presentation.
He called 2020 “kind of a watershed year,” for the Police Department’s hiring and retention efforts and noted that things have been getting worse since then. During 2020, the department hired 13 officers and lost seven through resignations, retirement or firing. But in 2021, the SPD hired seven officers and lost 11, beginning a downward trend. In 2022, the department hired nine officers and lost 13, and so far in 2023, six have been hired while nine have departed.
So, from a city-authorized force of 79, the SPD is down to 62 officers, including a few on leave or in training.
From 2020 to the present, the attrition has included 16 officers who left for jobs in the private sector, 15 who took jobs with other law enforcement agencies, five who retired and six whose employment was terminated. He illustrated this with a pie chart, as his presentation included a PowerPoint slide show.
“All of those terminations are related to integrity problems,” Broadhead said. “We’re simply just not going to tolerate officers lying or doing something that would undermine the public’s trust.”
Another chart, which he titled “A Snapshot of Hiring, 2023” showed by slices of the pie that, of 63 initial applicants so far this year, only the six have been hired, while three more are currently undergoing the background-check process. Of the rest, 29 were disqualified or failed background checks, while 25 withdrew or never completed the process.
“Exit interviews, both formal and informal, have revealed that officers feel overworked and underpaid,” Broadhead told the mayor and the three council members present.
Last year, as he previously reported, the SPD handled almost 42,000 calls for service.
“As the number of officers decreases, the workload for everybody increases, right?” he continued. “So what we see is, a lot those officers who have gone to other agencies have left because they are getting paid a lot more money there. We also see people that are going into the private sector not necessarily for more money but for reduced workload or because they don’t want the stresses of law enforcement.”
The current Statesboro Police starting salary for qualified but beginning officers is $45,801 a year. The city also provides a 2.5% boost on that for officers with bachelor’s degrees, and 2% for those who are veterans with three years military experience, and 1% per year of previous law enforcement experience, to a maximum add-on of 15%.
The department subscribes to a process called Interview Now, that puts individuals into the application process through their smartphones if they scan a QR code available in SPD patrol cars, and the company is making the process available through Planet Fitness locations. For one year, the department also subscribed to Veteran’s Ascend to reach military personnel, but has not received any applications through this process.
“Face to face is probably our best recruiting effort,” Broadhead said.
The department also publicizes job opportunities on social media, participates in some job fairs, provides some internships and is trying to do more outreach through Georgia Southern University, including to its athletic teams, women’s rifle team and pistol club, he said.
“Job fairs we’ve had very little success at,” he said. “There was a criminal justice job fair … at GSU…. Our table was sandwiched between the Georgia State Patrol and Brookhaven P.D., both of whom pay about $15,000 more than us to start.”
With Penny’s approval, the Police Department began offering bonuses around Sept. 1 both for new hires and for current officers who help sign them up. But the council on Tuesday approved major increases in the one-time bonuses for newly hired officers.
The previous signing bonuses were $1,000 for new hires who would still need to attend the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training academy and be certified as officers, and $2,000 for any newly hired officer who is already POST-certified.
“We’re going to try to increase that with y’all’s permission,” Broadhead said to the elected officials. “This is just not getting people’s attention.”
He successfully proposed increasing the one-time signing bonuses to $2,500 for officer recruits yet to be certified, $5,000 for certified officers with three to five years of experience, and $10,000 for certified officers with more than five years of experience.
Penny later said the bonuses would be “net pay,” meaning with an additional amount to cover the tax.
As was already in effect, the department also offers current officers – command ranks and the recruiting sergeant aren’t eligible – a recruiting bonus of $1,000 if they recruit a new officer who needs to go to the academy or a $2,000 bonus if they recruit an already certified officer.
$50,000+ to start
For the increase to at least $50,000 starting pay, Broadhead and Penny invoked the advice of Stephen E. Condrey, Ph.D., whose human resources consulting firm, Condrey & Associates, had already been tasked to complete a compensation study for all of Statesboro’s city workforce in time for a new pay plan to go into effect July 1, 2024.
“We did talk to Dr. Condrey … this past week,” Broadhead said. “He feels very comfortable that our new starting pay is going to be above $50,000. That’s just a floor number, so that at least gives us some kind of idea of where we’re going to be. If I had to guess I would say, just based upon my own experience, that number’s probably going to be 53 or 54 (thousand dollars) to start.”
Pay studies are based primarily on surveys of what other comparable employers – such as in this case, police agencies – pay people with similar jobs.
Penny told the council that the police pay study should be done by the first of December and the overall study for the city’s “general government” employees by the spring. He noted that the city previously separated the police from the overall pay plan.
“And so what I asked Dr. Condrey to do is to look at a public safety pay plan that would include police and fire. …,” Penny said. “Again, we would still move forward with the general government plan in July of 2024. But…we can pull the police, and I would probably say public safety, pay plan forward to January 1st.”
He also talked about how the increased starting salary will affect the rest of the pay scale, with an effort to maintain forward potential for experience and rank, and said the council should continue to back the program of “pay for performance” raises.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar and the council members present who spoke – only District 5’s Shari Barr, District 3’s Venus Mack and District 2’s Paulette Chavers were there – expressed support. But Penny said that District 1’s Phil Boyum and District 4’s John Riggs had also told him they would support the increased incentives.
“I’m… very elated that we’re implementing something for police officers because this is a need now, and we can’t wait till no July,” Chavers said. “This is a need right now.”
SPD recruitment fairs
The Police Department also has two recruiting events planned on two upcoming Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, both beginning at 9 a.m., at the city and county Public Safety Training Building, 37 Holland Industrial Blvd. For more information, see the Statesboro Police Department page on Facebook.