Durham City Council to consider raising police officer, firefighter pay amid high turnover

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Thursday, Durham City Council will discuss a proposal that will raise the pay for police officers and firefighters as the city faces a high turnover of sworn police officers and firefighters.

According to the latest data from Durham police, the department has 87 vacancies, which means 16 percent of sworn officer positions are vacant. That’s up from the 81 vacancies the department had last month.

In the Durham Fire Department, officials told CBS 17 there are 34 responder vacancies out of 389 authorized positions, which means 8.7 percent of positions are vacant.

As these departments face high turnover, difficulty recruiting, and a high number of vacancies, the city council will be considering a proposal to increase pay for Durham police recruits by 10.6 percent and the pay for firefighter recruits by 14.3 percent, according to a presentation on the city’s website.

If this proposal passes, Durham police officer recruits will go from making $38,511 to $42,593 a year.

The pay increase would make Durham more competitive with other cities, as it would allow police recruits in Durham to make more than Winston-Salem ($39,469), Raleigh ($41,068), and Greensboro ($41,513). However, they would still lag behind Holly Springs ($47,932), Wake Forest ($50,243), and Cary ($51,000).

Pay increase percentages for police officers and firefighters of other ranks will vary by their positions.

The shortage of police officers in Durham has impacted patrol staffing, as on some days in recent months they were only 50 to 60 percent staffed on patrols, according to internal emails CBS 17 obtained.

“We are really trying to be very innovative in the work that we’re doing and the service that we’re providing to our community,” DPD Chief Patrice Andrews said in an interview last month.

In an effort to boost staffing on patrol, Andrews is requiring officers with the rank of investigator and above, including herself, to go out on patrol for a total of four days from January through March.

Andrews said last month she is hopeful the city’s proposal for a pay increase will go a long way in retaining and recruiting more officers in Durham.

As far as firefighter pay, the proposal would raise pay for firefighter recruits from $35,592 to $40,682.

“The biggest thing we’re seeing in the field, is we’re losing a lot of good people,” said Tom Scozzafava, a Durham firefighter.

Scozzafava has been a firefighter in Durham for three and a half years. He said he must have a part-time job at a trucking company for him and his wife to make ends meet.

He said that he thinks this pay increase proposal is a step in the right direction.

“We’re happy to serve the community, but we just want to know that they’re behind us and I think that’s the message that voting this proposal through would send to everybody,” Scozzafava said.

Durham City Council will be considering this proposal on Thursday, but no word on when it will be voted on.

If the proposal passes, the pay increase would take effect on Jan. 18 and be applied to paychecks on Jan. 22.

The pay increase would cost the city of Durham $4 million the rest of the year.

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