The Lincoln Police Department would be the state’s highest-paid officer under the proposed contract local government
The Lincoln Police Department will be the highest-paid law enforcement officer in the state when the city council approves a three-year contract that gives officers an 8% pay increase and sergeants a 10% increase starting August 18.
The contract, approved by the Lincoln Police Union after about two months of negotiations with the city, increases the starting salary for new officers from $28.55 an hour to $30.83. Hourly wages for new sergeants would rise from $37.06 an hour to $40.76.
That means new officers would earn $64,128 annually and those who reach the top pay grade would earn $90,646. The annual salary range for sergeants would be between $84,793 and $107,369. The highest hourly wages for officers would be $40.77 and $51.62 for sergeants.
Current annual salaries range from $59,377 to $83,932 for officers and $77,884 to $97,608 for sergeants.
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Under the new contract, officers would receive a 6.5% increase over the next year and NCOs would receive a 4.5% increase. Salaries for both officers and sergeants would increase by 3% in 2024.
The contract would cost the city $3.2 million this year and $5 million in the second year of its two-year budget, said Barb McIntyre, Lincoln-Lancaster County human resources director.
Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird emphasized public safety in her proposed budget, adding police officers and firefighters among other public safety investments.
Police Chief Teresa Ewins said the contract will help recruit and retain officers and reduce a chronic staff shortage LPD has faced in recent years.
“It’s really hard to hire people today,” she said. “They compete with the whole nation for law enforcement officers and to get the qualified people into our department we have to make them a lot more financially attractive. Being the highest paid[in the state]is a no-brainer for me.”
The average minimum salary for officers in seven comparable Midwest cities that Lincoln used in the negotiations was $30.02 an hour and the maximum average was $40.65, McIntyre said.
She declined to name the cities used in the seven-city string, which she says was not shared with union officials during negotiations, but acknowledged that Omaha was among them.
The starting salary for Omaha officers for 2022 is $30.36 and the maximum is $42.47, she said.
Because of LPD’s “generalist” policing model — in which officers handle most cases from start to finish rather than taking reports and forwarding them to other investigators — Lincoln officers have a lot more work to do than officers in many departments, including Omaha, Ewins said.
The LPD is now 20 officers short, although a class of 20 recruits is progressing through the department’s academy. Ewins said she hopes to enlist another class of prior experience recruits to fill that gap ahead of a full recruit class in January.
The new contract adds other incentives, including a $4,000 lump sum payment for existing officers beginning August 18; a $3,000 payment for officers beginning in the next fiscal year; and $2,000 for officers beginning in fiscal year 2023-24.
The estimated $1.3 million needed for these blanket incentives will come from savings within the LPD budget rather than an additional budget line, Ewins said.
Another recent change the city made makes it easier and more affordable for officers with experience in other agencies to buy into the LPD pension, and that will help attract experienced officers from other states as well as Nebraska, McIntyre said.
The pay rise alone is significantly higher than other city pay rises approved this year, which range between 3% and 4%. The current LPD contract, which expires on August 18, reflected a 3.25% salary increase over the previous contract.
McIntyre said the higher raises for LPD are based on what’s happening in law enforcement, as departments across the country have had hiring issues and it varies for different jobs.
“I’d like to say they’re all the same, but they’re not,” she said. “Some grow faster than others.”
Lincoln Police Union President Jeff Sorenson declined to comment.
Both Ewins and McIntyre said trying to be competitive with other law enforcement agencies was the primary motivator in contract negotiations, not the state’s decision last fall to deal with a chronic corrections staffing shortage by raising starting wages by $8 per hour, increasing the hourly wage to $28.
This affected other agencies, including Lancaster County Corrections and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
district Correctional staff received a 26% increase on their new contract (followed by a 3% increase over the following two years).
Sheriff’s deputies received a 10% pay rise backdated to August 2021, taking starting salaries to $59,502 and increasing them by another 5% this month — bringing hourly pay to $30.04 an hour and annual pay to $30.04 an hour Brought $62,476. You will receive 3% in the following year.
Other changes in the LPD contract are:
* Increases in the wage gap for officers working the second and third shifts.
* Longevity Pay increases for officers who have been with LPD for at least seven years.
* Extension of the probationary period for new officers from 6 months to a year.
* Language that makes things clear pregnancy and childbirth-related medical issues do not count against the 210-day light duty limit.
* Increase in the city’s contribution to employee health insurance by 2% for family insurance.
* Increase in life insurance benefit from $60,000 to $75,000.
* Use of gender-neutral language in the contract what the city has done with other employment contracts.
“I think it’s a really good deal for us,” McIntyre said. “We need to focus on keeping our city safe and we need a healthy and vibrant police force to ensure we have a safe city.”
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