Last week, while on deadline, we requested some information from the city of Rockville which our reporter did not receive until two days after deadline.
As a result a claim by some police they hadn’t received a stepped raise since 2008 went unchallenged. It was the best information we had at press time, but it was incorrect. The truth of the matter is the police haven’t received a pay increase since 2010. Police and other city employees have also received a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in 2012 and a 2 percent increase in the cost of living in 2013 and 2014. The city manager says she has proposed the same percent increase in 2015.
In the meantime the city has enjoyed several budget surpluses. Exactly how much the city has yet to say, but Rockville has not run in the red. The numbers now supplied by the city give us the ability to examine exactly what it is the city management has done to the city police.
Let’s examine a police officer’s pay. The lowest pay, according to the city budget (and please feel free to correct my math anyone) is $47,707 a year. At that base pay, in 2010 you received a $3220.22 raise based on the cost of living and a step raise. The cost of living was 3.25 percent while the step increase was 3.5 percent.
That amounts to a $61.93 dollar a week raise. Since then the city hasn’t given a step raise and in the four fiscal years has given that same patrol officer three cost of living raises amounting to less than what he received in total raises in 2010. So while the cost of living has gone up, the ability to pay your bills as a police officer in Rockville is going down.
In short, police officers cannot afford to live in the city they protect and many do not. This doesn’t bode well for policing.
In the last two years that hypothetical police officer has received less than a thousand dollars a year more in raises which amounts to less than a .45 cent an hour increase in pay. For this the patrol officer puts his life on the line every day in order to protect and serve. A seasoned police major on the force does a little better, making an additional $28.58 a week based on a $74,311 annual income.There are 57 sworn officers and 36 civilian employees on the Rockville police force and according to the Rockville budget salaries and wages amounted to $6,406,120 in the current fiscal year with benefits of $2,329,880.
If the city were to go back to giving the police what the city gave them in 2008 it would only cost the city $384,376.20 in additional wages based on a 6 percent total wage increase. We used the 2008 figures because in 2006, 2007 and 2008 that’s what the city paid its police officers and we decided to be judicious and conservative.
But look at it another way. The city pays more to fight lawsuits brought against it by disgruntled employees. It paid $190,000 out of pocket to produce the Saul Ewing report based on claims that members of the city management staff discriminated against its rank and file workers.
Look at it another way. According to the budget, the city spends at least $102,155 on a public information provider. That is more than anyone makes on the police force except the chief!
The city has obviously made a choice, though we contend it is a very poor choice and we thank the city for providing us the information to illuminate it logically and specifically.
The city pays much more to its professional staff sitting in desks in the safety of city hall and pays its police officers who risk their lives on the streets much less. It chooses to pay lawyers to fight suits from disgruntled employees instead of paying police officers more money.
I urge the city council, members of the city staff and anyone else who would deny the Rockville police a real raise to take a ride along with police as they patrol Rockville and in particular some of the areas of higher crime.
Go with them as they have to confront armed bank robbers as they did with their higher paid country brethren on I-270 on Tuesday, risking their life for less pay and tell me they don’t deserve a mere 6 percent increase.
Look the men and women in the eye who protect and serve you and tell me they don’t deserve to be better compensated while the city management staff sits flaccid, happy and safe in the confines of city hall.
The numbers provided by that city staff say it all.