PINE BLUFF, AR — Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield said Wednesday that the department needs to provide incentives to retain experienced officers as other cities offer more money. Whitfield said beginning officers start out at $31,000 or $32,000 per year, and the city is not able to raise salaries as they gain experience. The officers are then recruited by other cities in Arkansas that offer higher pay. Fire and Emergency Services Department Chief Shauwn Howell has voiced similar concerns for firefighters.
Whitfield made the comments at what would have been a meeting of the Public Safety Commission, but not enough members of the commission attended so there was no quorum. The lone alderman attending the meeting, Bill Brumett, agreed with Whitfield on the need for increased pay and encouraged the police chief to present a plan to the City Council.
“We have started to hire more officers that live within our city and our county, but even with that we find ourselves still losing officers, so we’ve got to come up with some incentive package to keep us competitive,” Whitfield told the Commercial in a telephone interview.
Whitfield said he considered officers with between three and eight years with the department as “seasoned,” and they would be the targets of an incentive package.
Whitfield said he planned to discuss how to proceed with Mayor Shirley Washington and aldermen, then present a plan within 30 days or so. The council would then have an opportunity to weigh the request as it plans next year’s budget, he said. At Monday’s City Council meeting the department presented 11 new officers who graduated from the police academy last week. Those officers will now undergo a 12-week ridealong training period with a field training officer.
“By the time they get a couple years under their belt, learn the procedures, learn the policies, learn the city, then someone else comes and offers them a better package,” Whitfield said of the new officers. “Then we’re in a bad predicament… We’ve got to come up with something to keep [experienced officers] locked down.”
Shirley Warrior, a deputy chief of police, also gave an update on the department’s Police and Youth summer day camp. Warrior said the camp has new partners that donated money to the camp, Pine Bluff Rising and East Harding Construction.
“They wanted to be involved for the city, and they reached out to our kids,” Warrior said.
At a previous meeting of the Public Safety Commission on July 12, Whitfield commended Warrior for her personal generosity. Whitfield said Warrior gave 100 kids in the PAY camp $50 apiece out of her own pocket.
“She said she believes in giving because Oprah and Ellen give,” Whitfield said at the time.