More than 30 Scottsdale officer vacancies; attrition ‘phenomena’ continues
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press
Officials at City Hall are hoping to turn the tide of increasing attrition rates at the Scottsdale Police Department through better pay options as other Valley law enforcement agencies have begun to attract new and existing sworn personnel at rates depleting the current employment pool.
Myriad issues facing police department employee retention across the nation are beginning to emerge within the Scottsdale law enforcement corps, officials say.
A part of the City Council consent agenda Monday, Aug. 22, is a pay step system proposal for all sworn employees of the Scottsdale Police Department. The meeting is at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
“Law enforcement agencies across the country are experiencing an increase in the number of early retirements and resignations,” said Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson in his report to City Council.
“Simultaneously there is a decrease in the quantity and quality of the applicant pool that is directly affecting the ability to fill vacancies and keep up with attrition rates. There are many variables that can be attributed to this phenomenon; however, the impact directly reflects the current trend in significant vacancies in most police departments.”
Mr. Thompson is requesting a budget transfer of up to $3 million from the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System designation to the Scottsdale Police Department operating budget.
“As this applicant pool diminishes, municipalities are evaluating and adopting strategies to retain existing employees and attract new candidates,” he said of the matter.
The Scottsdale Police Department is experiencing this trend and has over 30 police officer vacancies and continues to experience a steady increase in attrition. Some of this attrition is attributed to officers leaving to neighboring police departments that are offering increased pay and benefits. It is costly to train new police officers and after becoming trained state certified officers, they are marketable, mobile and highly recruited by other agencies.”
The bottom line? The Scottsdale Police Department ought to have competitive pay in-step with other Valley law enforcement agencies.
“Having a competitive pay and benefits structure for sworn personnel will give the city an opportunity to retain these employees,” Mr. Thompson said.
Scottsdale police numbers
The issue contributing to police officer employment in Scottsdale is multifaceted, Mr. Thompson reports.
“Over the last year, the police department has seen an increase in employees retiring either upon their retirement eligibility date (20 years of service) or resigning prior to retirement eligibility date. In [fiscal year] 2021-22, 19 of 40 (47%) Scottsdale police officers resigned prior to four years of service, five (12%) resigned with 4-7 years of service, and 14 (35%) retired,” he said citing city employment data. “In [fiscal year] 2021, 33% left prior to 4 years of service and [fiscal year] 2019-20, 31% left prior to 4 years of service.”
Also, numbers show, loss of police officers is due to other department’s having better employment packages.
“The department has also recently lost several police officers to employment opportunities with other local Valley agencies that offer competitive salary structures and recruitment incentives,” Mr. Thompson said in his report.
“It is also an opportunity for more affordable housing often closer to home and less travel distance. This movement is more pronounced with officers that have between 1 and 4 years of service. A review and analysis of pay and classification structures for other cities was conducted to assess our standing with other cities related to pay.”
The assessment revealed other municipal police agencies have provided separate classifications for sworn police officers and most have a step program to address steady pay increases.
“This proposal is intended to position the city in a more favorable and comparable competitive position among Valley agencies,” Mr. Thompson said. “The adoption of this resolution will implement a separate pay table for police sworn positions along with a new pay step program for all sworn employees. The effective date for implementation is Sept. 11, 2022.”
A part of Mr. Thompson’s report to City Council is a list of assumptions provided to the local governing board of what the new pay program could look like if approved:
- Increasing SPD police officer entry-level pay by $1.70 per hour ($32.10), which is placing Scottsdale’s pay between Phoenix ($34.99) and Tempe ($32.04).
- Increases for each step vary to ensure placement of all steps between Phoenix and Tempe. For example, the step five pay increase is $0.73 placing SPD step five officers at $40.97 per hour, between the equivalent Phoenix officer ($44.13) and the Tempe officer ($38.14).
- Creating an 8-step pay table for police officers, a 6-step pay table for sergeants, and 4- step pay table for lieutenants, and a 3-step pay table for commanders, assistant chiefs, and chief of police.
- Step increments are 5% compounding for each step.
- Adjusting pay scales to a non-overlapping scale by rank with 5% gap between each rank.
- Future progression through the step program will be based on the employee’s job classification anniversary date.