Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Pay Police Officers More

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Pay Police Officers More

Recently there have been several articles written about the salaries being paid to our Alexandria Police Department (APD) officers that I have found very disturbing. The starting salary for an APD officer is approximately $47,862. The APD has the lowest starting salary among nine neighboring police jurisdictions, with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority paying the highest starting salary at $54,555.

In addition, the APD officers receive one of the lowest shift differentials, zero extra pay for higher education (associate, bachelor and master degrees), zero extra pay for being proficient in another language and one of the lowest clothing allowances compared to the same nine neighboring police departments. It should be noted that today most police officers have a bachelors and some even a master’s degree. Our current police chief is working on his Ph.D.

Police work is a demanding, dangerous and difficult job 24 hours per day. Every single day they literally put their life on the line and their families have to worry if they will come home after their shift. APD officers are on the streets and away from their family during all hours of the day to include weekends and holidays. Per APD policy, they are required to work 11.5 hour shifts. Holiday pay is only for 8 hours. They work an additional 3.5 hours on a holiday, away from their family, for straight pay. Additionally, when a holiday falls on a weekend, it is regularly observed by the city on a weekday. Police officers still work that holiday and are away from their families.

Due to the low salaries being paid to our police officers we are losing our officers to neighboring police jurisdictions on a regular basis and some when they just graduate from the police academy. In Fiscal Year 2016, 28 officers left; FY 17, 30 left and so far in FY 18, 10 have left.

Currently, 46 percent of the APD officers have less than five years on the job.

The residents of Alexandria have to understand that we don’t live in Mayberry anymore. Violent gangs such as MS-13 have taken up residence in our city. Certain categories of crimes have shockingly escalated in Alexandria and neighboring cities. The opioid crisis is also here in our city. Our police officers have to be well trained and equipped to handle all these critical problems.

Due to our proximity to Washington, D.C., what police jurisdictions will be called on to handle another 9/11 type crisis? It will be Arlington and Alexandria police departments, as can be seen on 9/11 and our recent shooting at Simpson Field in Del Ray. While working their shifts, our officers are asked to make a split second decision to use lethal force. Don’t you want the best trained and best qualified officer making those decisions? Will we really get the best talent for our police department if we pay the lowest salary?

Our city has approximately 154,000 residents and covers about 15.9 square miles: Nowhere near the size and population of New York City or Los Angeles. Yet, we pay our city manager over $263,000 per year (more than the vice president of the U..S and U.S. Cabinet Secretaries) and also provide him with three highly paid deputy city managers. Our city hall is also full of highly paid employees making much more than our city police officers who put their life on the line daily and maybe called upon to use deadly force. So, we are either paying our city employees too much or we are not paying our police officers enough. The question one has to ask is: Is this fair and ethical?

The other issue here is that our current City Council members rarely, if ever, talk about the low salaries being paid to our police officers or fight to raise their salaries. If they did, why is the APD the lowest paid in the region? Why is that? I would strongly urge all voters to think about how they feel about their own safety when they vote on June 12. Do you want the status quote or do you want council members that will adequately pay our police officers to protect you and your family members?

I strongly urge all residents to call or email our city council members and call City Manager Mark Jenks at 703-746-4300 and tell them you do not want our police officers to receive the lowest pay in the area and start paying them fairly.

Bryan Kirkes