Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

SSLPD officers get a 23% pay increase

Aug 23, 2021 12:07PM ● By Bill Hardesty

In response to market conditions, SSLPD officers get a significant pay increase. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

In a special South Salt Lake City Council meeting on Aug. 2, the council and the SSLPD put up a symbolic “No Poaching” sign. The council passed a resolution supporting a significant pay increase for SSLPD officers across the board. 

While the resolution is not binding, the City Council must pass a budget amendment allowing the increases to take effect. 

Police officers will receive a 23% increase. Sergeants will receive a 16% increase. Lieutenants will receive an 11% increase, and the deputy chief will receive a 5% increase. These increases are on top of the 8% increase that took effect on July 1.

South Salt Lake was eighth and heading to ninth on a valley-wide salary comparison without any action. Then, with the pay increase, South Salt Lake shot to first.

"So, this puts us in the lead and puts us with a recruitment advantage with those agencies," Chief Jack Carruth said. "This pay scale is compatible to what they are getting offered at West Valley, South Jordan and West Jordan with shift differential pays."

Market conditions

The first domino fell earlier this year. In July 2020, Taylorsville decided to stand up its own police department. Taylorsville used the funding they were paying into the Unified Police Department. The funding allowed Taylorsville to offer a $10,000 pay increase for entry-level to senior officers compared to most pay scales across the valley.

SSLPD lost two officers to Taylorsville. However, with the pay increase, one officer has returned to SSLPD.

Within a month, Salt Lake City PD, who have lost 63 officers since last summer, announced a nearly 30% pay increase for entry-level officers and 12% for senior officers. 

"I don't know about you, but I'm tired of training people—paying to have them trained and then having them poached by other cities," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a Deseret News article.

West Valley City PD quickly followed, offering $27.15/hr. to $28.50/hr. ($56,472 to $59,295) depending on shift for entry-level officers. All officers received similar increases. 

Within a week, South Jordan approved an increase to $27.04/hr. to $28.41/hr. ($56,243.20 to $59,092.80) depending on shift for an entry-level officer. Again, they increased pay across all officers.

To counter officers leaving, West Jordan also provided similar raises. However, each agency is down officers, so it is common for officers to seek greater pay.

"We're responding to a market condition out there that didn't exist six months ago," Kyle Kershaw, finance director, said. "There's a shortage of employees right now in law enforcement. So that's what's driving this now."

SSLPD worries

"Now we're extremely at risk of a large group of officers that don't want to leave, when they started looking at a $10,000 to $12,000 a year increase," Carruth told the City Council on July 28. "Many of them just purchased homes. They're having children, creating and starting families, this becomes very lucrative, and it becomes very appealing."

Chad Latham, president of South Salt Lake Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 15, suggested SSLPD could lose 20 officers in the coming week.

"Conversations with Mayor Cherie Wood began early on with Salt Lake City's announcement," Carruth said. "Having several small group work meetings with our City Council, they quickly recognized the urgency in taking the needed action to keep our police department intact."

Carruth mentioned it takes about six months to get a new officer back on the streets. He also feared that if the city postponed any decision on the situation until their next meeting on Aug. 11 it would be too late.

Both Latham and Carruth pushed the council for some immediate action. As a result, a special City Council was held on Aug. 2.

SSLPD pay scale

"I commend the work of our city council members for their legislative support and the commitment of Mayor Wood and her staff. Their immediate response avoided a devastating staffing blow to the South Salt Lake Police Department," Carruth said.

For years, SSLPD and SSLFD were on the same pay scale. Any raises were Public Safety raises. Given the situation, Carruth asked the council to split PD and FD. The council agreed. Until further action is taken, SSL firefighters only get the 8% raise that took effect on July 1.

"The fire department, we have our own challenges," Chief Terry Addison said. "We have our own recruitment challenges, and we need to have future discussions on what we can do to retain and recruit paramedics and firefighters and discuss our equity in relation to the rest of the valley. I see where Chief Carruth is coming from, but I do support this in a sense. And I'd like to have a future opportunity to have the same discussions."

Another unique element of the SSLPD pay scale is there is no shift differential. Most cities pay a 2.5% afternoon differential and a 5% graveyard differential.

"I have some concerns with shift differentials," Carruth said. "Not only on the administrative side but kind of a false sense of property rights to certain shifts. What I mean by that is you could have a graveyard officer working a graveyard shift, and for some organizational need or purpose, I need to remove that person from that shift and reassign them to a day shift. Well, that's taking money out of their pocket."

Rather than pay differentials, the raise goes across the board. One plus for officers doing it this way is that the full raise goes towards retirement. After-pay items such as differentials are not included in retirement pay.

How to pay for it

Kershaw told the council the only way to fund the pay increase for this year is to take the funds out of Fund Balance. Fund Balance is like the city's saving account. Kershaw estimates the new pay scale will cost the city $1,050,000 in fiscal year 2022.

This action solves the problem in the short term. However, Kershaw was asked about paying for the pay raise in the future.

"How to sustain it really can't get answered until next spring when you are dealing with the FY 2023 budget and all kinds of different options would be on the table," Kershaw said. "At that point if economic development came online and if the economy was still running pretty hot. There are options, obviously, tax increases are also on the table, but those are questions that we really can't answer for another six or eight months."

Councilmember Ray DeWolfe suggested another long-term solution.

"As far as long term, I was supportive of a public safety tax in the past. I'd be supportive of it again. Unfortunately, I won't necessarily get to have that discussion by the time that comes around," DeWolfe said.