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Draper Journal

Council approves pay increase for Draper police officers

Nov 02, 2021 10:45AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

As a result of a trickle-down effect that began with a need for officers in Salt Lake City, the Draper City Council unanimously approved a pay increase for Draper’s police department effective Sept. 19. 

It was a matter of increasing the officers’ pay or losing them in lateral moves to other cities who’d already adjusted their pay scales. 

“Salt Lake City had a significant increase in pay. At the time, they had about 80 openings. There are about 120 law enforcement openings in the Salt Lake Valley itself. Salt Lake City hoped to raise pay to attract officers from other departments. If you have that many to fill, it’s easiest to find officers from other departments,” Police Chief John Eining said. 

According to Eining, Draper’s police department is fully staffed for the first time in years. But it was a matter of increasing pay or losing officers to other cities in the valley where they could make roughly $10,000 more annually, even as much as $15,000 more at the top end of the pay scale in Sandy City. 

Eining explained that if a department hires someone with no police training, it takes four to six months of police academy to begin their training followed by months of field training. “If I’m going to hire someone straight off the street, they don’t impact your staffing issues for almost a year down the road. Salt Lake City intended to take laterals, because if you hire someone who’s already trained, you don’t have to go through that entire process, you just have to teach them what’s unique to your department. If you’re able to hire lateral officers from other departments, you can impact your staffing shortages within weeks and you get all that training and experience coming to your agency.” 

Following Salt Lake City’s pay increase, West Valley City increased the pay for their officers, and then all the other agencies in the valley followed suit. “We felt like we had to do the same to keep up and not lose our officers,” he said. 

The increase will cost the city approximately $700,000 annually. City Manager David Dobbins said the city has funds to cover that increase for this year. “We’ll incur that cost no matter what. If we don’t make a pay adjustment, we lose officers, then we have to implement the pay increase and catch up. First of all, our police officers deserve this pay. I would hate to see us lose them,” Dobbins told the council at their Sept. 7 meeting. 

Councilmember Tasha Lowery expressed pride in the team Eining has established, one focused on compassionate, community-based policing. 

Mayor Troy Walker told the council the story of an experienced Draper officer who, called to respond to a suspect with a gun, used his training to de-escalate the situation rather than firing his gun in return. 

Councilmember Cal Roberts expressed concern that this might become a never-ending cycle of pay increases, but Dobbins said other city managers don’t think it will be. “I just don’t see how cities can continue to do these drastic changes,” Dobbins said. 

Eining agrees. “I don’t think this is sustainable to have a pricing war every year. I’m confident this will level out for the next couple years. It comes as a burden to your taxpayers and how you fund it becomes problematic,” he said. 

Walker said this all began “with the big political upsweep that occurred with the defund movement” that led officers to leave, and for those cities to get officers back, they had to increase their pay. “We’ve never been in the defund mode in Draper. It’s unfortunate we get into these bidding wars with each other, but it’s America and that’s how it goes,” Walker said. 

With the increase, Draper now ranks fourth for police pay in the state. “Even with this increase, we won’t be the top paid agency, but we will be competitive,” Eining said. The increase only applies to “sworn police officers,” meaning detectives and those on patrol. It doesn’t apply to civilian staff such as records personnel and victim advocates, nor does it increase Eining’s pay. 

Prior to the approved increase in pay, the chief kept his staff informed that he was advocating for the raise in hopes of not losing any officers along the way. “I told them all along what I was working toward….I wanted them to know, before they made a decision to go somewhere else, that it was a problem we recognized and were working on.” Eining said the city also offers its officers a great health care plan and a positive working environment. “Working in Draper, being in this environment, how much our citizens appreciate their police department, this environment is a benefit,” he said. 

It is anticipated that Draper will provide police and fire services for the development at The Point. That, coupled with the city’s growth, means more officers will need to be hired, something the city hasn’t done since 2018. Officers recently went from 10- to 12-hour shifts to have better coverage. The city has grown with more high-density housing, and according to Eining, calls for service are increasing. “We’ve got to grow the police department in accordance with the growth of the city,” he said. But for now, he’s glad to have the pay increase issue in his rear-view mirror. 

“I want to give credit to the mayor and city council. It really is on them, they make these decisions, and we’re thankful they appreciate what we do for the community. They’ve shown their appreciation many times over,” Eining said.