Opinion Your Views — 25 April 2013
City’s police force is getting robbed in proposed budget

To the editor:

As the Alexandria City Council ponders the budget — and the changes to health care and pension plans that will hurt police officers and firefighters — let’s remember those famous words: “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

As a former Alexandria police officer, I know what our local law enforcement officials do every day. Over the years my colleagues have been punched, stabbed and shot in the cold dark hours of the night, while we rest easy behind locked doors.

Understanding those risks, our police officers serve without hesitation, because for them, it’s a calling. They will always protect us. We expect this of police officers, yet we provide them with some of the poorest compensation in the D.C. area.

This compensation makes little sense, considering Alexandria’s financial position. According to the Washington Post, the city’s 2011 median household income was $82,748, the 26th highest in the country, out of 3,000 jurisdictions.

Despite Alexandria’s wealthy status, police salaries remain lower than neighboring jurisdictions. The starting salary for Alexandria’s officers is $43,617.60. Prince George’s County’s median household income is $70,715, ranking 69th in the country. However, the starting salary for the county’s police officers is $46,610.

The county’s income is 14.5 percent less than Alexandria’s, yet it pays its officers 7 percent more than the Port City.

Let’s look south to Henrico County. Henrico’s median household income is $58,110, which is $25,000 less than Alexandria’s income. Yet, the starting salary for a police officer there is $43,032, which is essentially equal to Alexandria. It also is shocking that the median price for homes in Henrico is $191,800, while the price in Alexandria is $389,000.

In the proposed budget, police officers are told they will pay a new deductible on health insurance and contribute 10 percent of earnings to their pension (up from 8 percent contributions). Therefore, police are effectively given a pay cut.

The city manager argues he is giving merit increases and lower health care premiums. These improvements are counteracted by the increased pension contributions and the insurance deductible.

The bottom line is that Alexandria police will continue the irony of working for one of the country’s richest cities while receiving one of the lowest salaries in the D.C. area. This is our chance to protect our protectors. Let’s start properly compensating police officers by eliminating the proposed changes to the pension and health care plans.
- Burke Brownfeld
Alexandria

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(9) Readers Comments

  1. Alexandria, shame on you. You should be embarrassed!

  2. This is outrageous! They do an exceptional job and their pay should match Arlington and Fairfax. The police have put their life on the line for our community. I will be calling council as I hope others have the courage to call as well too.

  3. Contact City Council about this issue on the phone or at the website comment form listed below:

    http://request.alexandriava.gov/CCC/#tab=Departments&group=MayorandCityCouncil&service=CNC_GROUP

    704-746-4500

    Every comment or call will show appreciation to those who make Alexandria such a safe place to live!

  4. Not all Alexandrians are wealthy. The citizens include plenty of middle class workers and struggling parents. I am sick and tired of this “other people have money, so they should give me some” mentality.

    Also, you do not know what budgetary priorities and responsibilities these other jurisdictions have. Starting salary is only one metric. What about benefits? Salary raises? Other perks?

    I agree that the Alexandria police department does a great job. But raising people’s taxes to pay to increase your salary (which is how these things work) is outrageous. When we start getting excess revenues, then we can talk about pay raises.

    I notice that the new costs you mention are admittedly “counteract[ed]” by merit pay increases, so what is the problem here?

    As somebody who has taken a real pay cut in recent years, contributes 100% of his retirement savings, and pays far more for health insurance than you do, give me a way to pay for the proposed salary increases without raising my taxes and I will give you my support.

    • The people who are commenting against police officers and firefighters being paid better rates seem to forget that those men and women also have families they care for. Its the spouses of the first responsders who feel the pain of less wages. When the first responders have to pick up an additional 24-30 hours every two weeks to make a decent life for their families. Every day our children kiss their parents good bye before the night/day shift and the spouses do as well, unsure if they will return the same way they left out the front door. As an LEOW I and my sisters have taken an oath that we will not be selfish to the citizens of Alexandria or any other county our husbands work for. I cannot demand that he take off and attend the family Christmas party, that he take off and attend his children’s back to school or that he take off and just be home to tuck his children in before they go to bed. Do NOT forget that MANY of the Alexandria police officer’s and their families live within Alexandria city, so not only do they protect the streets they also give back to the community by living there as well. The first responders are not asking for heavy increases they are simply asking to match the same as their brothers from neighboring counties. That is not to much to ask, the increase in their wages will allow the police officers and the firefighters the chance to enjoy their son’s baseball game, or family bbq. Yes there are plenty of minimum wage workers in Alexandria and there are plenty of weatlhy as well. I am the wife of a first responder. We are a middle working class family. We also live in one of the neighboring counties who have higher starting salaries for their police officers and firefighters. In my community what they do for us, a two week pay check cannot compenstate. It is however one way to say Thank You to them and to their families for allowing that mommy or daddy to leave the house and care for my children while my husband is away caring for the Alexandria community. The real question is NOT why we should pay Alexandria Police or Firefighters $3k more a year. The real question is WHY does the Mayor of Alexandria give him self annual raises of $50k to $100k? What job is he doing that requires that much money every year???????

      BTW -The deductible is much more than $5,000. Whoever got that information should check their sources and mind their business. How much is paid in deductible doesn’t matter. Just know that none of the first responders would ever qualify for free healthcare or any other freebie that MY tax dollars pay for.

  5. With neighboring jurisdictions Fairfax and Prince William Counties hiring the young trained and experienced officers away from Alexandria to fill staffing INCREASES there, Alexandria continues to fall behind in experience levels. This will catch up to Alexandria very soon.

  6. Concerned citizen. My spouse has been an Alexandria Police Officer for decades. His income has taken a huge hit over the last 5 years. I do our taxes and I see the bottom line each year. Read the whole opinion piece. The merit raises did not begin to cover the increased costs to the employee. Our time is almost over so we fight for those who are to come. The long term consequence for the city is having a professional experienced police force. Look at the numbers, many are leaving, few are coming or staying.

    • SPOUSE – I to am the wife of an Alexandria Police Officer and I couldn’t agree with you more. My response earlier was a little lengthy but hopefully between yours and mine we got our message out there.

  7. Great article, however the police are always saying they need more. However they continue to better work by the city paying them less. Why should the police get paid top dollar at when they do their job at minimum wage rates. What is not mentioned, is how we are going to get them more money by raising the high deductible medical cost. The police will now be responsible for $5000 of their medical deductible. The city strongly feels that employees abuse going to the doctors. Why should our cops and firefighters be in great health, they are only the ones coming to save our lives when we are in trouble. Hey who cares right, with that savings we just bought riverfront property, Sugar needs a boat slip, for my new toy. I have been told council is doing a great job by saving the city money. No with no tax increase, everyone is happy, well except for police and fire departments. So nothing is going to change, sugar’s gotta boat, and I am all set to sail! Ahoy!
    Suga-of- the-sea.

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