BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Police Department has released a pay study, conducted by SSA Consultants, that was designed to evaluate the salaries and benefits of the approximately 700 officers on the force and compare them to nearby departments.
Ten agencies were evaluated as part of this study, including the New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana State Police, the Gonzales Police Department, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
EBR Councilman Matt Watson says it’s a wake-up call for the capital area leaders.
“An assistant manager’s job at Hooters, I believe I heard at one time was almost $40,000 and I don’t really think you have to wear a bulletproof vest to work at Hooters,” he said.
Wings aside, city leaders have their work cut out for them if they hope to come up with the $21 million price tag to pay local officers what those in other agencies make around the country.
“That’s going to be the challenge,” said BRPD Chief Murphy Paul. “It’s not easy to find $21 million, especially in struggling times like this.”
The massive 58-page report shows starting pay at BRPD falls anywhere from 16 to 40 percent lower than other agencies. Right now, they start off at about $38,797 per year, while troopers with Louisiana State Police begin at $51,932, and Gonzales Police Department officers bring in about $51,323 annually.
- BRPD salary ranges are about 16 to 40 percent behind peer forces based on rank
- The salary for officers in BRPD is $38,979 after one year of service. In comparison, the salary for officers in the City of Gonzales is about $51,000, approximately $11,000 higher.
- The pay gap widens as officers’ tenure increases and BRPD is beginning to lose officers with seven or eight years of experience to other cities and other law enforcement agencies. BRPD has lost many officers over the past four years, with 2015 and 2016 revealing the highest numbers. The turnover rate was highest in 2015 (8 percent) and 2016 (7.7 percent). In 2017 BRPD had a 6.5 percent turnover rate and a 6.8 percent turnover rate in 2018.
- The total cost of raising officers’ pay to meet the average market level will cost about $14.5 million annually. This estimate does not include healthcare and retirement benefits, which add an additional $6.5 million annually.
“Now that we have the final report, our staff will continue our efforts to recognize efficiencies within the department to identify cost savings within our existing budget. Additionally, the city-parish has engaged efficiency consultants who are currently evaluating specific operations in the City of Baton Rouge, including the police department. We believe the subject matter experts will also identify areas of improvement within the police department, and we eagerly await their final report. We will continue to work with the mayor’s office, the metro council, the Baton Rouge Union of Police, the Magnolia State Peace Officers Association of Louisiana, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the community we serve to raise our salaries to the appropriate level,” said Chief Paul.
Paul tells WAFB money is a big motivation for some of his officers to leave and go to other agencies that pay better. He says they have already started combing through their budget to identify what, if anything, can be redirected to fill the need.
“We are doing our part by looking at areas of efficiency and areas where we can be a little more responsible with how we are spending dollars,” Paul added.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released a statement Wednesday, April 24 after the results of the study were released. The statement reads:
The results of the BRPD pay study indicate a significant pay disparity when compared to peer police forces.
"I have directed my administration to identify savings to provide additional financial resources to our police department. Our efficiency experts are currently analyzing BRPD operations to identify cost savings and to ensure the department is running as efficiently as possible.
Over the past two years my administration has directed nearly 20 million dollars in new vehicles, radios, public safety equipment, and body camera equipment toward BRPD to support the department and its officers. I will continue to support our police department and its men and women in blue who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis. They deserve to be compensated in line with their peers, and my administration is working diligently to address the disparity in their compensation."
Both Watson and Paul call it a crucial step because they believe raising taxes is just not an option.
“We’re going to have to really look at the budget to spend money more effectively by using the resources that we already have. We certainly cannot go out and ask the community to pay more money,” said Watson.
“It’s about us putting our heads together, being creative, trying to identify these dollars, because I tell you, our officers deserve it,” Paul added.
Click here to read the full report and recommendations.