Abbeville Police work to correct costly turnover problem

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Abbeville, AL (WSFA) –   A shortage of police officers is a growing concern for small towns across the state.

Many say the problem stems from the job's low starting salary.

City leaders in Abbeville are confronting this problem head on; they've not only come up with plans to increase pay, but also to save the city money.

Officer Jermaine Reeves said, "Money is a motivator."

On the job for three months, Reeves says money is the only thing that would keep him from making it a lifelong career.

Abbeville Police Chief Mike Jones said, "For any police officer just starting out, he makes $11 an hour.  That's pretty hard for a man with a family to make a living."

It also makes it hard for the city of Abbeville to keep up its force.

Mayor Ryan Blalock said, "We were either training officers to go somewhere else, or we were getting officers that were retired and not quite as motivated."

But now, there's new light.  The department is cutting two unfilled positions and spreading out the money, starting with increasing the starting salary by about a dollar an hour.

And even though part of the plan includes increasing pay, city leaders say, it will actually save money in the long run.

Blalock said, "The training of a police officer is about $15,000.  That's the most of any department we have, and when that's the highest turnover you have, those things just don't match."

The plan will save the department so much money, officers will now be up for performance based raises each year as long as they meet certain criteria like preparedness for court, attendance, late duty, etc.

One thing that won't have any bearing on performance, is the number of tickets an officer writes.

For officers like Reeves, the changes are an extra motivator to stick around.

"It's definitely a plus," Reeves said.

"We're hoping this is going to give us better performing officers.  We can give then incentives, and we can give them a reason to actually go out and do better," said Blalock.

Many say, it's a small price to pay to keep the community safe.

The plan also includes a take home policy for police cruisers if the officer lives within city limits.

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