CRESTVIEW — The city pays about $18,000 to train and equip a Crestview Police officer. But because the city ranks next to last in regional police salaries, trained officers often leave and join other agencies, according to Police Chief Tony Taylor.
A survey of 16 regional law enforcement agencies revealed only Shalimar Police officers are paid less, yet Crestview is Northwest Florida's third biggest city.
“The pay situation of the Crestview Police Department is critical and it has been neglected for many years,” Taylor said Monday during the City Council's budget workshop.
“$13.69 (per hour) is not enough pay for an officer to be on the street getting shot at,” he said.
Taylor’s $4.014 million 2014-15 budget request represents a $164,000 decrease over the 2013-14 budget, but includes increases in his officers’ salaries.
A lot of the savings in the police department budget came from attrition, including 14 officers who voluntarily left the CPD since October 2012, Taylor said. Replacement, entry-level officers are paid at the bottom of the salary scale.
Some officers who leave go to work for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, where starting salaries are more than $2 an hour over Crestview’s.
“We have a revolving door,” Taylor said. “They switch uniforms and they patrol the same area.”
While a 17 percent raise would bring a Crestview officer’s salary to law enforcement standards and make the position more competitive, Taylor requested what he believes is a more feasible 8 percent increase.
It would be accomplished by giving officers a one-grade and one-step increase on the city’s pay scale.
Taylor requested the council bear in mind the exceptionally rigorous training and challenging work a police officer undergoes.
“We're the only agency in the city where we have to wear bullet-proof vests to work,” Taylor said. “We walk through the doors no one else would walk through. We’re the only people who seek out situations that other people run from.”