Council Member Lowell Maxey Concerned About Keeping Bridgeport's Finest; Pushing for Higher Salaries, Incentives

By Julie Perine on October 12, 2017 via

At least one member of Bridgeport City Council is concerned about maintaining the city’s high standard of law enforcement. Bridgeport Police Department is currently interviewing for three open positions, at least one of which remains open after a Bridgeport police officer left for a position with an area force.
Council Member Lowell Maxey brought his concern to Council during Monday night’s work session. He said Bridgeport needs to up the ante when it comes to salary and incentive packages for city police officers. Higher base salaries and sign-on incentives offered by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and nearby city departments are hard to refuse. Maxey said he can’t blame the police officers or the departments for being on their A-game, but he does feel Bridgeport needs to follow suit.
“We’ve already lost one police officer to the Sheriff’s Department with another on the list to be hired,” Maxey said. “The sheriff has 9-12 certified people on his hiring list, bumping up their salaries to the point that certified officers are leaving other departments.”
By taking positions with the county force, certified police officers – those already completing state police academy, as well as required field training – are making between $7,000 and $10,000 more annually, plus receiving a $5,000 hiring bonus.
Although Clarksburg’s starting salary is just over $1,000 more that Bridgeport’s, the bordering city does offer a $5,000 sign-on bonus. Fairmont offers $3,000. Bridgeport does not incorporate a hiring bonus.
“That’s another thing we need to do is give Chief (John) Walker flexibility to be able to do that,” Maxey said. “We’re not competitive with other departments such as Clarksburg and Harrison County. We’re not even in the ballgame.”
Bridgeport’s base salary is $37,200 as compared to Harrison County’s $45,400.
“We’ve never been in this position before,” Maxey said. “I think it’s important not only for our salaries to continue to be competitive, but that we’re also able to do the same thing that these other departments are doing. If we hire certified officers, we are not strapped with having to send them off to the academy.”
Most new police hires are not certified, having to attend state police academy and subsequently field training after the hiring process.
“So it’s a long time before they can be turned loose by themselves,” he said.
The department foots the bill for the academy training and the police officer is free to take other employment at any time.
Furthermore, Bridgeport – and all forces – pay for officers to become specialized in polygraph, internet crimes other specialties.
“If these people get on a list to be snatched up by other departments, they will be the first to go,” said Maxey, adding that there is nothing in place preventing a newly-specialized officer from leaving the force within a designated amount of time.
Maxey believes it is an important issue; one which cannot be placed on hold until the next budgeting process.
“I think we have the best police department for our area – and for the state, but guys interested in covering their education and career development are going to go where the money is,” he said. “Retention of our certified officers is critical.”
Salary breakdowns for area police departments are as follows:

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