Update 9:45 p.m. Monday:
The Henderson City Council unanimously approved, with two council people absent, both measures presented in more detail in the original noon news update listed below.
With those votes of approval, each sworn Henderson Police officer will receive $6,456 more in base salary except for exempt staff like captains, assistant chief positions and HPD Chief Marcus Barrow. It sounded like from what City Manager Terrell Blackmon said during the meeting, those command positions would soon also receive a comparable increase and that it may be the same amount of $6,456. In addition, the funding equivalent of the annual pay and benefits of one police officer, which is already funded but an unfilled position, will be used to implement the License Plate Readers.
Barrow said in the meeting that his patrol and investigation divisions need the most help right now. He said the LPRs would help in both those areas and thus the whole police department.
The LPRs are electronic data, and Barrow said it was electronic data that led to the arrest of the three suspects in the recent Gholson Avenue homicides.
Chief Barrow provided a few additional facts the public may like to hear as well.
He said, “They are visible. They are not hidden from the public. They are motion sensitive. They are not constantly recording. They are identical to what is used at the toll booths. This is not for speeding. It will not take pictures of people, just motor vehicles. This is the least invasive.”
He said to be fair the placement of the devices would be totally data driven.
Original Update Noon Monday:
The Henderson City Council is expected to act tonight on a couple of requests aimed at giving local law enforcement officers more money in their pockets and an additional tool to help them in their job of keeping the city safe.
The police department is allotted 52 sworn law enforcement positions, but it currently has about a dozen vacancies. In two separate requests spelled out in tonight’s agenda information packet, Chief Marcus Barrow wants to take the equivalent of one police officer’s salary – $66,000 – and use it to place throughout the city 25 camera-like devices that can read license plates.
Barrow, along with city staff, want to take some of that unused money from the salary pot 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.
“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: He wants them to bump up the salaries of current sworn officers by more than $6,000 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,” as stated by Barrow and other city staff in information included in the agenda packet.
The salary adjustment of $6,456 for each sworn employee would bring 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.
“If nothing is done, we expect shortages to continue and retention efforts to dwindle as competing agencies further the gap,” according to the agenda information.
If implemented this month, March 2023, 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.