FORT PIERCE, FL — They risk their lives to keep you safe and protect your community.
But some police officers in Fort Pierce say they can’t afford to do this job in Fort Pierce, and still live a comfortable life with the current pay.
The president of the Fort Pierce Police Officer’s Association says in the last 5 years, the police department has hired 77 officers. In that same time frame, he says 54 have quit, not including those who have left for retirement or medical leave.
Pay, he says, is the main driver behind the turnover.
Many do not want to have to leave.
“Everyone that you talk to that leaves says they would have stayed. I would have stayed 100 percent,” said one former officer, who does not want to be identified.
Three current and former police officers who went to better-paying agencies spoke to WPTV anonymously about the pay concerns in Fort Pierce.
They said the city does not have a hard time attracting officers to the area.
“If you really want to experience being a cop, you know, catch bad guys, Fort Pierce was the place to be,” one officer said.
They were also attracted to the department because of the camaraderie they say you do not always find elsewhere.
“This is the place you want to come if you want a family,” one officer said.
The take-home pay for Fort Pierce police officers is lower than nearby agencies, like Port St. Lucie Police and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
Fort Pierce Police pay a percentage of their paycheck into retirement, where other departments do not.
Healthcare is also more costly for Fort Pierce Police Officers, docking more of their take-home pay.
“The paycheck comparison, it’s just a joke,” one officer said.
Annual pay increases are also less than nearby law enforcement agencies.
“You work beside somebody that’s been here 10-15 years, and they make $20 more a pay period than you.”
Because of that, they say there is little incentive to stay.
“Sitting here now, it’s hard to give you ten names of people that are working on the road that have been here longer than five years.”
Officers say this trickles down to how they protect the community.
“People with no experience, training people with no experience.”
“We don’t staff an entire neighborhood because we don’t have the people.”
They also say it affects how they solve crimes and makes it harder to develop community relationships.
“A lot of times you get tips because they know who you are.”
City leaders know this needs to be fixed. But how? No one has said.
City Manager Nick Mimms in a commission meeting said, “We do need to look at ways to improve our employee retention.”
Commissioner Reggie Sessions also expressed concern about the turnover.
“This warrants us doing all we possibly can to address that retention level of our police department dwindling down the way that it is.”