BRPD budget, including officer pay raises, goes before Metro Council
BATON ROUGE - Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul made his pitch for police officer pay raises to the Metro Council Wednesday. The latest effort to hike pay comes as a part of the city-parish's 2021 operating budget.
"We're trying to do our part by being more responsible with the budget we have," Paul said. "For us to go out there and find dollars within our existing budget to pay our police officers to give them a raise."
As a part of the city parish's 2021 budget, a 3% pay raise is proposed across the board for police officers. The move, which would total $1.8 million annually, would be made possible by eliminating some positions from the department, altering overtime pay policy, among other changes identified through an efficiency study.
"There's no doubt, that here in Baton Rouge we've been serving as a training ground, literally, for other departments," councilwoman Tara Wicker said. "Even [other departments] here in the region, because the pay was just not competitive at all."
Before the final budget is voted on, council members are hearing budget presentations from each city-parish department. After taking questions from council members Wednesday, Paul said the biggest concern he heard was how the department can make sure it has enough officers to effectively combat crime.
"That conversation about making sure you have the number of police officers you need while being able to compensate those individuals is a difficult balance," Wicker said. "You can't have more officers if you can't effectively recruit and compensate them properly."
With two police academies scheduled for 2021, and dozens of candidates going through the process of applying to serve right now, Paul says a pay raise will help with recruiting. Even if a pay hike is approved, he and council members agree plenty of work remains when it comes to officer compensation.
"That is only one step, and I want to be clear about that, this is not our end-game, this is only one step to where we need to be," Paul said.
"I think paying the police officers more is one of those things that is going to attribute to our ability, to at least start, the process of making sure Baton Rouge is a safe place to live, work, raise a family and do business," Wicker said.
The final budget will be voted on Dec. 8. City-parish spokesman Mark Armstrong says if approved, the pay raises would go into effect later that month.