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Clarkston mayor announces pay raises for current police officers, new hires

Clarkston Crime and public safety Trending

Clarkston mayor announces pay raises for current police officers, new hires

Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks (right), alongside Police Chief Christine Hudson (left), announced pay raises for police officers and city employees during a press conference on Monday, June 12, 2023. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Clarkston, GA — Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks announced an 8% pay raise for city police officers during a press conference on Monday, June 12. The starting pay for new hires will increase by 12.5% to about $52,000 and all city employees will get an 8% pay raise as well.

“This adjustment reflects our commitment to providing competitive compensation that recognizes the dedication and vital role of our officers,” Burks said. “We believe it is important to maintain fair and equitable compensation across the board.”

Employees can expect to see the raise hit on their June 21 paycheck.

The salary increases will go into effect immediately. The city can pay for the raises through cost savings found in the budget, so no action is needed from the city council, Burks said.

“This is our first step. We’re also going to have our budget reviews and so with that, where we can find additional cost savings within our overall budget, we will see how we can do more salaries if possible,” Burks said. “We’re making sure that we are conscious about our budget, but we also have to be mindful of the officers who serve our community.”

The pay raises will be reflected in the city’s amended budget.

The raises are intended to avert a severe shortage of officers. Police Chief Christine Hudson previously said the city could be down to nine officers by mid-July out of an authorized force of 21. Hudson said on Monday that the department currently has 15 officers and the city has not seen an uptick in crime.

“After hearing the officers’ feedback at the council meeting, City Manager Qawiy. Chief Hudson, and I have discussed various measures to address the situation,” Burks said. “We understand the importance of having an adequate number of officers for street patrol and maintaining public safety.”

In an unusual move, several Clarkston police officers spoke about the state of the department during the public comment period at the June 6 city council meeting. At that same meeting, council members blocked a discussion to discuss a proposed pay increase for officers, attempting to convince officers with one foot out the door to reconsider their decision to leave the city for other opportunities.

“We identified cost savings of 8% before the council meeting, but after carefully considering the officers’ input, we reevaluated our plans and made further adjustments,” Burks said during the June 12 press conference. “Our priority now is to increase starting salaries to attract and retain qualified officers for our police department.”

In an effort to attract officers to join the Clarkston Police Department, the city is considering offering signing bonuses, Burks said.

“New certified police officers may be eligible for a signing bonus ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, while new applicants could receive a bonus between $1,000 and $1,500,” Burks said. “These bonuses are aimed at attracting talented individuals who are committed to serving our community. We will continue to provide a $1,000 referral incentive for existing officers who refer qualified candidates to join our police department.”

The city is also exploring the potential of offering one-time retention bonuses, but the details and stipulations are still being evaluated. Hudson is also working on additional marketing strategies to promote retention and recruitment of police officers.

“We understand the importance of retaining experienced officers and providing incentives for their continued service,” Burks said. “Lastly, our city manager and police chief will be coordinating with DeKalb County to explore options for backup officers for a period of six months. This collaboration will ensure that we have the necessary support during this transition and maintain the safety and security of our city.”

Burks added that the city will look at ways to explore the city’s culture and workplace, and a consultant will be reviewing this.

The police shortage comes amid tensions between the police chief and City Manager Shawanna Qawiy, who suspended Hudson for five days in April. Hudson, who is white, responded by filing a grievance accusing Qawiy, who is Black, of having ‘animus’ toward white people.

“We’re looking at ensuring that all of our employees are able to function and do their job,” Burks said. “We will do the follow-ups that we need to ensure that that happens. Additionally, we will also look in terms of doing a study that the overall culture of our workplace is something that is desirable for our employees to be able to function.”

Hudson, who is eligible to retire, said the department asked for raises back in November but, “We were told that there was no money for raises back in November.”

Hudson said on Monday that the morale of the police department should increase with these raises.

“It should help us greatly to attract certified officers,” Hudson said. “[I’m] very happy about it and extremely happy that they gave a 12.5% raise for our starting pay because that really helps within DeKalb County. In smaller municipalities, it’s harder to get up to $55,000 to start.”

Earlier this year, DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Michael Thurmond announced that the starting pay for new police recruits was increased from $50,500 to $55,000. The pay raise was effective as of April 1.

Dan Whisenhunt and Sara Amis contributed reporting to this story.

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