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HomeNewsArchives$4.4M TO PLACE POLICE ON 1998 SALARY STEP

$4.4M TO PLACE POLICE ON 1998 SALARY STEP

Saying it is unrealistic to place the territory’s police officers on a 2001 pay scale, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said Friday that 1998 is the closest the administration can get – at a cost of more than $4 million.
Christian’s comments came at the second installment of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Planning and Natural Resources’ look into the state of the territory’s emergency management services. At Thursday’s meeting on St. Thomas, senators were told that low pay, low morale and a lack of equipment is hamstringing the V.I. Fire Services and emergency medical technicians.
That message was repeated on St. Croix on Friday. This time, however, Christian testified to the fact that the police department was experiencing mass defections of officers seeking higher paying jobs locally and on the mainland. Placing officers on the 1998 pay step, he said, would help staunch the flow of officers leaving the force.
"I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that something will happen soon," Christian said, in regard to the Turnbull administration sitting down with the police unions.
He said rank-and-file officers are being paid on a 1994 pay scale, while members of the Law Enforcement Supervisor’s Union are on a 1992 step, which means many rookies are paid more than veteran officers.
The police commissioner said he had a long meeting with the governor in mid-December on what it would take to give officers more money. Following that meeting, he submitted a list of all the officers on the force, their current pay and what it would be on a higher step. Those documents, he said, are in the hands of Karen Andrews, Turnbull chief negotiator.
Christian said it would cost $4.4 million to put the entire police department — supervisors and patrol officers – on the 1998 step.
"And it would be a recurring cost," he added.
Naomi Joseph, president of the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association, said the pay situation was approaching critical mass. Officers are leaving their $13-per-hour jobs on the force to take $18-per-hour positions as security officers at the Hovensa refinery and elsewhere, she said.
"All we are asking for is to find the money to pay us," Joseph said. "Until you pay these people . . . you’ll have officers leaving."
Under questioning by Sen. Celestino White, Christian said he originally sought approximately $35 million to run the police department. But after conferring with the Office of Management and Budget, that number was pared down to approximately $26 million.
Fire Service Director Pedro Encarnacion said he too is battling personnel issues. Because of retirement, resignations and dismissals, he said there are now 45 vacancies in Fire Services. But because of current overtime costs he is unable to fill the spots. In fiscal year 2000, Fire Service spent $355,000 on overtime. That, Encarnacion said, could have paid for 12 firefighters.
Meanwhile, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen told Christian that she was concerned with plans that would close the downtown Frederiksted police station and move it to the Rainbow Center in Hanna’s Rest.
But Christian said contract issues with the unions make the current station a bad fit. Parking is inadequate and bathroom and locker facilities are sub-par. He also said officers are "bombarded by stench" coming from an upstairs restaurant’s kitchen.
"We’ve basically outgrown that station we’re at now," Christian said. "If the move does occur . . . the protection of the citizenry of Frederiksted will not be compromised in any way."

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Saying it is unrealistic to place the territory’s police officers on a 2001 pay scale, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said Friday that 1998 is the closest the administration can get – at a cost of more than $4 million.
Christian’s comments came at the second installment of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Planning and Natural Resources’ look into the state of the territory’s emergency management services. At Thursday’s meeting on St. Thomas, senators were told that low pay, low morale and a lack of equipment is hamstringing the V.I. Fire Services and emergency medical technicians.
That message was repeated on St. Croix on Friday. This time, however, Christian testified to the fact that the police department was experiencing mass defections of officers seeking higher paying jobs locally and on the mainland. Placing officers on the 1998 pay step, he said, would help staunch the flow of officers leaving the force.
"I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that something will happen soon," Christian said, in regard to the Turnbull administration sitting down with the police unions.
He said rank-and-file officers are being paid on a 1994 pay scale, while members of the Law Enforcement Supervisor’s Union are on a 1992 step, which means many rookies are paid more than veteran officers.
The police commissioner said he had a long meeting with the governor in mid-December on what it would take to give officers more money. Following that meeting, he submitted a list of all the officers on the force, their current pay and what it would be on a higher step. Those documents, he said, are in the hands of Karen Andrews, Turnbull chief negotiator.
Christian said it would cost $4.4 million to put the entire police department -- supervisors and patrol officers – on the 1998 step.
"And it would be a recurring cost," he added.
Naomi Joseph, president of the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association, said the pay situation was approaching critical mass. Officers are leaving their $13-per-hour jobs on the force to take $18-per-hour positions as security officers at the Hovensa refinery and elsewhere, she said.
"All we are asking for is to find the money to pay us," Joseph said. "Until you pay these people . . . you’ll have officers leaving."
Under questioning by Sen. Celestino White, Christian said he originally sought approximately $35 million to run the police department. But after conferring with the Office of Management and Budget, that number was pared down to approximately $26 million.
Fire Service Director Pedro Encarnacion said he too is battling personnel issues. Because of retirement, resignations and dismissals, he said there are now 45 vacancies in Fire Services. But because of current overtime costs he is unable to fill the spots. In fiscal year 2000, Fire Service spent $355,000 on overtime. That, Encarnacion said, could have paid for 12 firefighters.
Meanwhile, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen told Christian that she was concerned with plans that would close the downtown Frederiksted police station and move it to the Rainbow Center in Hanna’s Rest.
But Christian said contract issues with the unions make the current station a bad fit. Parking is inadequate and bathroom and locker facilities are sub-par. He also said officers are "bombarded by stench" coming from an upstairs restaurant’s kitchen.
"We’ve basically outgrown that station we’re at now," Christian said. "If the move does occur . . . the protection of the citizenry of Frederiksted will not be compromised in any way."