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Pay study reveals Alexandria police officers underpaid, leaving for more money

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 2:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 4:23 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A nearly 50-page study of the salaries of police officers working for the City of Alexandria shows, by and large, officers are underpaid in the city and leaving for more money. News Channel 5 obtained the survey independently. (The full study can be viewed at the bottom of this page.)

In early 2021, the City of Alexandria contacted Vermilion Analytics to conduct a salary study of its police and fire departments. This initial article will focus on the results of the police study.

According to information obtained by Vermilion Analytics, pay plans for both the police and fire departments have not been updated since 2009, and that planned phased compensation increases that were set to take place “were never implemented in their entirety.”

The study details resignation and vacancy rates within the police department.

“Since 2013, there have been 72 documented resignations resulting in a loss of approximately 300 years of law enforcement experience. As of February 2021, there was a 35% vacancy rate in the rank of police officer and a 21% vacancy rate in the rank of corporal; several officers have resigned since those figures were calculated.”

Vermilion Analytics

But, when employees leave the Alexandria Police Department, where are they going? A chart created by Vermilion Analytics from 2017-2021 shows how many total employees left the department each year and what percentage of those employees went to other law enforcement agencies.

Chart: Work Employees Pursue After Resigning from APD
Chart: Work Employees Pursue After Resigning from APD(Vermillion Analytics)

This percentage has steadily risen over the years. For example, in 2020, 22 employees left the department, with 15 of them leaving for other law enforcement agencies. That makes up 68% of departures. According to the study, most officers report they are leaving the Alexandria Police Department for financial reasons.

There’s currently a 35% vacancy in Alexandria police officers. But, what is the effect of having fewer officers in the department?

According to Vermilion Analytics, the Alexandria Police Department is reporting that all specialized units within the police department have been forced to shift their employees to patrol responsibilities.

“The only unit that has been spared thus far is the detective unit, and detectives are planned to start patrol duties within the next few months. APD fears it cannot successfully protect the city under these conditions and believes that an increase to compensation is necessary to curb retention issues and to attract new employees who will stay with the department for many years.”

Vermilion Analytics

Here’s what Mayor Jeff Hall had to say on Wednesday about the city’s zones being covered.

“Recognize that we do have all of our zones covered. Nothing has been uncovered. The community has not been any less safer. APD has done an outstanding job and we look forward to quickly solve our problems as it relates to pay situations that could be better and they will be better.”

Mayor Jeff Hall on Wednesday, June 2 on "Live at 5"

Now, lets break down the salaries for the Alexandria police officers. Currently, the Alexandria Police Department’s base salary for an officer is $34,000/year. This graphic shows that base salary compared to other agencies across the state. Alexandria is in the middle of the pack here, with officers’ base salaries less than places like Woodworth and Lafayette, but more than Pineville and Baton Rouge. It’s important to note that base salary does not mean that officers are actually making that amount.

Chart: Police Officer Base Pay for Full Sample
Chart: Police Officer Base Pay for Full Sample(Vermillion Analytics)

This graphic shows the average of actual salaries officers in agencies across the state are making compared to the Alexandria Police Department. This drastically changes where Alexandria stands when it comes to pay, dropping it to near the bottom of the list, below Woodworth, Pineville, and even LSUA and Northwestern State campus police.

According to the study, right now, Alexandria police officers are making 16.8% less than other agencies in our region.

Chart: Average Actual Police Officer Pay for Full Sample
Chart: Average Actual Police Officer Pay for Full Sample(Vermillion Analytics)

The study says that while police officers in Alexandria start at similar base salaries as their peers, they tend to stay close to that starting pay until they are promoted to corporal, which takes four years of service.

According to the study, the police department’s competitors are benefiting from regular salary increases and incentive pay, which boosts their salaries above the Alexandria Police Department.

“Alexandria’s current base salary is 4% less than the full market comparison and 2.5% less than regional competitors. When comparing what the average starting police officer makes around the state, however, the difference is significantly larger.”

Vermilion Analytics

According to the study, the base salary for a corporal at the Alexandria Police Department is $36,840. The base salary for a sergeant is $43,822. These salaries make the pay for these positions competitive in the local market.

It currently takes four years to become a corporal at the Alexandria Police Department, and an average of 15 years to become a sergeant there. This is important, because in 2020, the average length of a resigning officer’s employment was 3.88 years. In 2019, that was 2.49 years. That means officers aren’t staying long enough at the department to see an increase in pay.

In conclusion, Vermilion Analytics recommended that pay for police officers should be increased by at least 2.5%, but ideally more to stay in line with the average of other agencies across the state.

On Wednesday, we interviewed Mayor Jeff Hall live on air, where he confirmed the pay study was complete. Here’s one exchange on if employees are underpaid.

Brooke Buford: “There are a lot of police officers and firefighters watching tonight and they’ve been waiting on this study to find out if they are in fact underpaid compared to other departments. Can you give us the CliffsNotes version at least to say, yes they are underpaid and need more money, or no they’re not?”

Mayor Hall: “I can say yes and no. Because that’s how broad that question is. So, it’s a matter of looking at that and discussing and determining. But, keep in mind, our communication and working with the Alexandria Police Department is far beyond just salaries. They also have incentives that according to the union contract until the service that we can address. And, we’ve had preliminary discussions on that prior to the study being released. So, we are preliminarily in some agreement on some things as it relates to the union negotiations. But, I’m not at liberty to discuss that because we don’t have a contract yet.”

Wednesday, June 2 on "Live at 5"

News Channel 5 will have coverage of the results of the fire department study on Monday.

Full Pay Study:

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