The Salt Lake City Council has agreed to dramatic pay raises for the city’s union employees – especially for police officers.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced on June 25 that the Salt Lake City Police Department will receive a big pay bump, including a 30% increase in entry-level officer salaries, and a 12% increase for senior officers.
Mendenhall said the decision was made to attract and retain quality officers.
“This is a bold market adjustment that has been years in the making. And it’s really to avoid what is becoming a public safety threat to our city,” Mendenhall said.
Currently, the police department’s entry-level officers make $21 an hour. After the pay raise, they will make $26 an hour. Senior-level officers’ pay will go from $35 to $39.
The Salt Lake City Council met earlier in the week to approve of sending $9.1 million from the city’s fund balance to cover the pay raises. In addition to the police department, the council approved a 4% across-the-board pay raise for Salt Lake firefighters and a 4.5% raise for other union-represented employees such as maintenance crews, waste and recycling workers and 911 dispatchers.
President of the Salt Lake Police Association and police officer Joe McBride was delighted to hear the news.
“We have no complaints. It was everything we could have hoped for — and more,” he said.
McBride noted that the pay raise is one of the biggest in recent memory, and was a long time coming. McBride is hopeful it will attract new talent and persuade officers to invest in a long-term career in the city.
“This is the capital city,” he said. “(Salt Lake police) deal with things that no other city deals with. So to feel like now we’re paid fairly for what we’re asked to do, it’s a huge uplift for morale for the guys.
“The last year has been really rough,” he added, “and to have these numbers come in and to put us at the top of the pay scale and have officers feel appreciated from the city, recognized for the hard work that they do, it’s been an incredible lift for morale.”
Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said the pay increase will likely help bring the department’s staff up to capacity. Right now, there are 63 vacancies in officer positions due to officers retiring or leaving to departments that offered more money.
“If we as a city want the best employees, we can’t pay them below market. We just can’t,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “When Taylorsville announces that it needs to staff its brand-new police department and is paying between 5% and 23% more than we do, of course some of our officers are going to go join and take that opportunity. And many of them did.”
“I don’t know about you,” the mayor continued. “But I’m tired of training people — paying to have them trained and then having them poached by other cities.”
According to Mendenhall, who has passed numerous police reform bills since the death of George Floyd, the city’s new Commission on Racial Equity in Policing supported the pay increase. She said she expects there to be criticism from those who want to defund the police, but called the movement “illogical” and “backwards.”
“This is a necessary step to do the work that they are helping direct to keep our city safe…Decreasing the funding for a department who is already struggling to retain and recruit officers … is an illogical and backwards step,” Mendenhall said. “Defunding the police isn’t something that I’ve ever supported.”
Chief Brown, who has been critical of Mendenhall in the past, praised her for putting “words into action.”
“It’s huge,” Brown said. “Even as we speak right now, there are officers out there responding to very difficult, dangerous situations. Just last year, we responded to 123,000 calls for services. There is not a department in this state that does what we do. Nobody responds to that many calls. We expect our officers to be the best. Today, we are paying them for the service and what they bring to the city. We’re paying them as the best officers in the state.”