Just a few months ago, Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse thought the solution to his department’s growing manpower shortage was near.
The city had completed a year-long analysis supporting what the police chief had been saying for awhile — the Georgetown Police Department was underpaid and understaffed.
The mayor barnstormed around the city sharing the analysis and developed a wage scale that he felt would bring the wages for Georgetown’s police department in line with neighboring cities.
Then the pandemic hit, the wage increases were pulled from the 2020-21 budget and Bosse was forced to ask his officers to be patient.
Three police department resignations since the pandemic hit in March has Bosse nervous.
“It is the conversation within the police department,” the police chief said about the manpower shortage and wage inequalities. “What we need is for the city council to take an open vote and write it down. We understand there is nothing they can do now, but when the pandemic eases up, say they will address the wage inequities within the police department.
“That would go a long way with my officers. This would make a difference.”
On Wednesday afternoon, through the mayor’s office, the News-Graphic emailed each council member asking that question and we asked for a response by 9:30 a.m. Thursday, even though we actually waited until 11 a.m.
Five council members responded — David Lusby, Tammy Lusby-Mitchell, Todd Stone, Mark Showalter and Connie Tackett. There was no response from Karen Tingle-Sames, Polly Singer-Eardley and Marvin Thompson. A response from Mayor Tom Prather was not requested as he is on the record as supporting a wage increase for first responders.
The full responses can be found on Page 7A.
“I’ve already stated publicly to the community, to the police department, to other first responders and all city employees that addressing pay was a priority for me, and I feel it’s a priority for most other council members as well,” wrote council member David Lusby. “The reality is our revenue needs to increase to make this happen.
“As you know Mayor Prather and his staff, the finance committee and the city council had been working on a comprehensive study and plan to address some of our revenue shortfalls for several months. The plan was teed up and ready to present when COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks just before we could get anything voted on.”
Council member Connie Tackett is also a member of the city’s finance committee.
“I am a huge supporter of all our first responders,” Tackett wrote. “As council member sitting on the finance committee, I saw first-hand the commitment we all had in looking at revenue sources to address all city employees’ salaries. The finance committee was on the verge of submitting a recommendation to the council addressing salaries across the board including making the police department salaries more equitable and more appealing to attract more trained officers to join the police department.”
Council member Tammy Lusby-Mitchell said she would support such a vote.
“I am happy to make public my support of addressing the pay issues within the police department,” she said. “I am a member of the Police Committee and am convinced that there are salary and head count needs that must be addressed.”
Council member Todd Stone is a former Georgetown police officer.
“I would vote and put it on paper,” Stone said. “I want employees to have the raises and the longevity steps put in place so that we will reward employees for staying with the city. Whether it is police, fire, dispatch, or public works.
“We have to take care of them or we will continue to be a training ground for other agencies and departments.”
Council member Mark Showalter wrote the pandemic slowed a plan to address some of these issues.
“I honestly believe that if the pandemic had not hit earlier this year, that there truly was a plan that was going to allow us to have further discussion on the direction that some of us feel is needed, in order to continue to move this city forward,“ he said. “Every single Georgetown city employee is important to me. All of our city employees are truly the backbone of the city.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.