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Letter to the Editor: Protect the Protectors

To the Editor:

As City Council ponders the budget, and the changes to healthcare and pension plans that will hurt police officers and firefighters, let’s remember Orwell’s words, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” As a former Alexandria police officer I know what our police officers do every day. Over the years my colleagues have been punched, stabbed, and shot, in the cold dark hours of the night, while we rest easy behind locked doors. We expect this of police officers, yet we provide them with some of the poorest compensation in the D.C. area.

This compensation makes little sense, considering Alexandria’s financial position in the US. According to The Washington Post, Alexandria’s 2011 median household income was $82,748, the 26th highest in the country, out of 3,000 jurisdictions. Despite Alexandria’s wealthy status, police salaries remain lower than neighboring jurisdictions. The starting salary for Alexandria officers is $43,617.60. Prince George’s County’s (PG) median household income is $70,715, ranking 69th in the country. However, the starting salary for PG police officers is $46,610. PG County’s income is 14.5 percent lower than Alexandria’s, yet PG pays its officers 7 percent more.

Let’s look south in Henrico County, Va. Henrico’s median household income was $58,110, which is $25,000 lower than Alexandria’s income. Yet, the starting salary for Henrico PD is $43,032, which is essentially equal to Alexandria’s salary. It is also shocking that the median price for homes in Henrico is $191,800, while the price in Alexandria is $389,000.

For next year’s budget, police are told they will pay a new deductible on health insurance, and contribute 10 percent of earnings to their pension (up from current 8 percent contributions). Therefore, police are effectively given a pay cut. The bottom line is that Alexandria police will continue the irony of working for one of the richest cities, while receiving one of the lowest salaries in the D.C. area. This is our chance to protect our protectors. Let’s start properly compensating police officers by eliminating the proposed changes to the pension and healthcare plans.

Burke Brownfeld