Police chief asks for help _lowres

Advocate staff photo by STACY GILL -- Zachary Police Chief David McDavid was the guest speaker at Rotary’s Jan. 8 meeting. McDavid provided an update on the Police Department that included grants, equipment and statistics from the past four years.

Zachary Police Chief David McDavid is asking city officials to consider a pay raise for his officers.

The raise is needed because several police officers working for his department are being recruited by other agencies and a few already have left, McDavid said in a letter to Zachary council members.

He is asking that the pay raise be included in the upcoming budget talks.

“One of our detectives recently left to work for the LSU Police Department, and we’ve recently been made aware that we may be losing a couple more to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said McDavid, who added that the Baton Rouge Police Department also has called.

According to McDavid, officers are leaving because the agencies have better starting pay, and offer educational benefits, advancement opportunities and more divisions to transfer into.

“What I’m asking the city to do is consider budgeting an increase in starting salary for uniform patrol officers and dispatchers,” McDavid said.

Zachary uniform patrol officers make $15.60 per hour, or $32,448 annually, and dispatchers make $13.80 per hour, or $28,704 annually.

McDavid said he is asking the city to consider increasing the starting pay to $17.05 per hour for both officers and dispatchers as well as to consider a $150 to $225 monthly stipend based on educational experience for those with advanced degrees similar to what Zachary firefighters receive.

“The educational stipend would affect at least 15 of our officers, a benefit we’ve never had,” McDavid said. “By offering a little more, we’ll gain a slight edge as well as the opportunity to retain the officers we’ve already hired and trained, which costs money.”

With the extra pay, the department can continue recruiting top-notch officers to protect the businesses and residents in the community, McDavid said.

“We’re just trying to keep people here. We’ve got some great officers and dispatchers, but we’re going to lose some of them to other agencies if we don’t make it beneficial for them to stay,” McDavid said.

The Zachary Police Department incurs a $750 expense on each officer it sends to an 11-week police academy training program. Once training is completed, additional costs include a service weapon, bulletproof vest, gun belt and other gear totaling about $1,600, while a police vehicle with equipment can cost upward of $30,000 to $32,000, according to McDavid.

“We don’t want to become a training ground for officers only to have them leave and work somewhere else,” McDavid said.

Zachary officers are allowed to work details to earn extra cash such as at Southern University football games and concerts, bank details and community events.

Each year, Zachary city employees, including police officers, receive an annual 3 percent cost-of-living raise.

In 2010, when Mayor David Amrhein was elected to office, he increased officers’ pay 11 percent in an effort to make their earnings comparable to that of area law enforcement.

Zachary Police Department employs 60 people, including administrative and ranking officers as well as reserve officers.

About 33 uniform patrol officers and eight dispatchers are on the payroll. The pay request, if granted, would not affect any administrative or ranking personnel.

McDavid says he’s concerned now with getting the starting salary increased for his officers and dispatchers but will later ask for a raise for himself.

As his salary compares to other police chiefs in cities with similar budgets and populations, McDavid makes less than police chiefs in Baker, Gonzales, Opelousas and West Monroe at $76,000, even with the monthly $500 in state supplemental pay that bumps his salary to $82,000.

He listed his 31 years with the department, the fact that he’s a graduate of the FBI National Academy and DEA Drug Commander School and his 105 hours of credit toward earning a bachelor’s degree as reasons the council might consider a raise.

“I’m asking them to review this information and consider an increase in my salary as chief of police. Due to ethics laws, I’m not able to work any details inside the city limits of Zachary,” McDavid said.

McDavid’s duties as police chief also include tax collector, marshal for the court as well as handling garnishments and seizures.