Phoenix approves $20,000 police salary increase to ease major officer shortage

The Phoenix City Council approved in an 8-1 vote to give new Phoenix Police recruits a huge salary increase to keep up with a competitive job market and ease its officer shortage.

This would make the Phoenix Police Department the highest-paid law enforcement agency in the state.

The department has about 400 empty positions already, and hundreds more officers are closing in on retirement.

So just how much is this increase? City officials are hoping a $20,000 increase in starting salary will attract more applicants and help get more officers on the streets.

Under the plan, new police recruits would start at more than $68,000 a year. The current starting salary is just under $49,000 a year. 

Police officers would see a 51% increase, and the police chief would get a 56% increase.

The nearly $20 million in raises would come from the department's existing budget.

As the fifth-largest city in the country, supporters say the increase is necessary to attract and retain officers. A recent survey showed that the old base salary range is lower than other local departments.

"We are going from more complex compensation system for our police department to one that is more competitive and has our wages above average," said Mayor Kate Gallego during the meeting. "We have a very complex city, our officers respond to a large number of incredibly difficult calls, and to me, this investment makes sense."

The new salary raises will take place on August 8.

RELATED: Phoenix Police Department hiring non-sworn positions to help with staffing shortage

Some condemn proposal

Phoenix advocacy groups called on the council to reject the proposal and say that officers should not be rewarded with these salary raises.

Those against the proposal said those funds should have gone towards low-income and homeless populations.

"If you have to bribe the public with money to fill the vacant positions then they probably do not need to exist," said one advocate against the proposal.

This comes amid a U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation over allegations of excessive use of force by officers, retaliation against protestors and discriminatory practices.

"If we invest into our education, if we invest into our housing, our sheltered folks, that creates public safety - contrary to what some people think, we do not hate cops, we hate the system," said one commenter at the city council meeting on June 15. "We will continue to show up just to make you aware that we are listening, and we are paying attention to how you all vote."

Officer shortage

The police department has a budget for 3,125 officers, but so far the current staff is at about 2,600. Police say the shortage of officers has led to specialty officers being re-assigned to patrol, and officers working mandatory overtime on their days off.

For now, the average response time for priority emergency calls is seven minutes and 21 seconds – above the five-minute standard.

"They do feel overworked and probably underpaid and unfortunately unappreciated. So I hope this is one step in the right direction, letting them know that they are important to the city of Phoenix," says Ann O’Brien, a Phoenix City Council member.

The city council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting on June 15. If approved, it will go into effect on Aug. 8, and raises of at least 3% for current Phoenix Police employees would go into effect in October.