Police are frustrated because their salaries are lower and their workload higher than officers in other area cities, a representative of the Sandy City Police Alliance told council members at a budget hearing Tuesday night.
But a solution proposed by Mayor Steve Newton that would leave one or two positions in the department vacant to pay for an inflated salary increase is not the answer, alliance representative Al Avila said.The city's proposed $22.1 million budget would provide the same amount of money to police and other city departments that they received this year. A 3 percent pay increase funded out of the city's contingency funds has also been proposed to cover increases in health insurance costs.
The hearing on the proposed budget was the first time council members heard from police on the results of a survey comparing Sandy police salaries with comparable Utah cities, which was conducted by a local accounting firm.
The survey, conducted by Peat Marwick Main & Co. at the request of the city, found that Sandy police earned less but responded to more calls than officers in the four cities selected for comparison, Provo, Orem, West Valley City and Ogden.
The firm's report concluded that their study "left the impression that a potential morale/performance problem may exist." A way of raising salaries as productivity increases should be considered, the report stated.
City officials ordered the study in response to charges made by the alliance of high turnover among police. The report found that turnover among Sandy officers was below average and not excessive.
Newton said in an interview that he agrees there is a morale problem among officers and said the solution is to pay them more money. The mayor said he has asked Sandy Police Chief Larry Lunnen to leave the next one or two vacant positions in the department unfilled, then distribute the money among remaining officers according to their job performance.
He said that although the report found that a Sandy officer answered an average of slightly more than 600 calls annually, more than any of the other cities studied, many of those calls were to help stranded motorists.
Such service calls could be reduced to keep a smaller police force from being overworked, Newton said. Avila told the council that the number of those service calls is minimal and that they help build good relations with the community.