The Henderson City Council approved a couple of requests aimed at giving local law enforcements more money in their pockets and an additional tool to help them in their job of keeping the city safe.
Chief Marcus Barrow said the police department is allotted 52 sworn law enforcement positions, but it currently has about a dozen vacancies. In two separate requests, Barrow asked Council members to take the equivalent of one police officer’s salary – $66,000 – and use it to place 25 camera-like devices across the city that can read license plates.
Barrow, along with city staff, want to take some of that unused money from the “salary” category and put it to work to help the current officers who patrol the city’s streets and neighborhoods.
The license plate readers, or LPRs, are small and only weigh about 3 pounds but they can have a powerful impact. Police can enter license plate information into the system and the LPR will “look” for matching tags. Whether it’s a stolen vehicle or a vehicle associated in other criminal activity, the LPR can help police narrow down searches.
Flock Safety will provide 25 license plate readers for the police department to use, and will in essence, take the place of one law enforcement officer.
Numerous nearby municipalities are already using Flock Safety or have contracted
with them for deployment in the near future. Local law enforcement is in constant contact with those agencies to help solve crimes that travel through various jurisdictions.
To drive home the point, Barrow said the use of LPRs in Durham helped provide information that proved useful in the arrests of three people in connection with the deaths of two men found in a car on Gholson Avenue last month. One of the suspects is from Durham, Barrow said.
It’s one way that the police department can work smarter, not harder, during times when agencies continue to experience vacancies, with little interest from prospective employees.
“Filling positions has become increasingly difficult, and law enforcement agencies
across the nation are seeking alternative solutions to supplement their shortages with technology and tools to assist their workforce,” states information from the council’s agenda packet.
But additional technology isn’t the only thing that Barrow is asking council members to consider: the council also approved a request to bump up salaries by more than $6,000 for current sworm officers as a way to make the base pay more competitive with nearby agencies.
The city raised the base pay a couple of years ago, and Barrow said that helped retention rates tremendously. But now, surrounding agencies are upping their game and implementing pay adjustments of their own.
“We are just past the midterm of our fiscal year and anticipate a $400,000 to $500,000 surplus in our approved salaries, wages and benefits. With most agencies in the Wake County area at a $50,000 starting salary, and comparable sized agencies at or near this mark, it is necessary that we develop a salary adjustment that will align with the market trend to help with officer retention and recruitment,” Barrow stated in remarks to council.
The salary adjustment of $6,456 for each sworn employee brings the hiring salary for an entry-level sworn officer to $48,959 – just shy of Wake County agencies, but more in line with neighboring counties’ pay rates.
Barrow said he surveyed 25 nearby agencies and only Louisburg Police Department is lower than Henderson’s. He wouldn’t expect to be able to compete with a Cary or a Wake Forest, he said, but the $6,456 boost will help the local department compete with similar-sized agencies.
“If nothing is done, we expect shortages to continue and retention efforts to dwindle as competing agencies further the gap,” Barrow reported.
If implemented this month, March the total cost, including benefits but not
including the pending retirement of a Lieutenant in March or April, is approximately $102,000. In FY 23-24, the total increase would be $315,000 in the Salary/Wage line item.