The Scottsdale Police Department has announced that the City Council has passed pay increases for police officers. With the pay raises, new Scottsdale officers will be near the top of the pay scale, placing them somewhere between Phoenix and Tempe PD.
But the devil is in the detail, and this might be another smoke and mirrors move that Scottsdale officers are all too familiar with. What do I mean?
With the new pay scale, both the City and PD are selling it as an eight-year step program where an officer would get a compounding 5% pay increase between years one and eight. Officers would “top out” in eight years once they reach a pay of $93,954. Sounds great, right? But here is a question that I am getting different answers to. Is the annual 5% pay increase merit based or do officers automatically get the increase year after year?
When I worked there, I was sold the same thing when going through the hiring process. I was told my pay would top out in seven years. Then I figured out how that really worked. It was based on merit. We had annual reviews where an officer would be rated between a 1 and 5. That number corresponded to your raise. If you got a 5, you got 5%. If you got a 3, you got 3%. For the first couple of years, unless you really jacked something up, were found responsible of a policy infraction and/or were super lazy, you got a 5 and your 5%.
Then that all changed. For several years of my career supervisors were forced to rate people on a Bell Curve. Supervisors were only allowed to give a 5 to one of their employees, with the rest getting 3 or less. That practice effectively ensured nobody got the full 5% and your total amount of years to top out went from 7 to 10, 11 or 12, in practice. I did not top out until I had 11 years on.
So, this might be a great, and long overdue move for Scottsdale officers. It also might be like the past where the PD sells it one way but, in practice, is not as lucrative as reported. From people I’ve talked to it sounds like it is not merit based . . . now. I hope that is true and I hope it stays that way. My guess is that, if it is not merit based now, that will change in the coming years as the US dips deeper into the current recession.
And a couple of updates:
The decision by the city to fine officers that decide to leave the Scottsdale Police Department if they serve less than four years went over about as well as you would expect with both current officers and those in the hiring process. During a recent meeting between the Chief and POSA members, the Chief stated that he was surprised by the wording of the policy, as passed. He stated that the intent of it was to fine only those officers that lateraled to different Valley agencies and was not meant to fine those that decided the career was not for them. Two points if that is true. One, there must be a lot of officers leaving to work somewhere else if you are targeting them. Two, did the Chief not have time or feel it was important enough to read the five-page document that set the policy? In fairness, Walther told POSA the document that was passed was worded differently than the one he signed off on. I am not sure I believe him, but whatever.
Last thing. There is a rumor that the officer who asked for his badge before leaving for Glendale, upon moving to the other agency, became involved in an Internal Affairs investigation about how the email got out. Not true. He is not. Just for the record. I do not know the officer and have never spoken with him. He did not provide me a copy of the email. I do not know how it got out. All I know is that it was sent to me by multiple people. Officers that are friends with him have reached out to me. They verified that he is not involved in any Glendale IA investigation because of the email.