Pocatello has been ranked one of the most dangerous cities in Idaho multiple times. While most disagree with these reports, that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have a police problem — they’re leaving to find better pay.
To combat the problem, the Pocatello Police Department is in the process of negotiating higher pay, but police officers getting frustrated.
“Their livelihood is suffering by staying here at this point, which is why so many are right now actively looking elsewhere for opportunities to at least make a living wage,” said Patrick Davis, the Echo Hawk and Olsen attorney representing the Pocatello Police Union. He says fewer officers patrolling the streets, mean a higher chance of danger for the officers who choose to stay in Pocatello.
The national and statewide trends show Pocatello police pay is falling behind, as stated in this negotiating meeting. Davis says the starting salary is 7 percent less than in cities with similar populations.
In Coeur D’Alene, rookie officers are now paid 17 percent more than in Pocatello, thanks to a recent increase in their salaries, according to Davis.
“It’s frustrating for the city to say, ‘Well, 2.5 percent is all we can do,’ when the union can actually look at the fiscal budget report and see that there was enough money given back in the last three years that would have funded –like I said– an 8 1/2, 9 1/2 percent raise without finding new money anywhere,” Davis said.
However, Mayor Brian Blad says the negotiations aren’t over yet, and there’s a lot that needs to get taken care of.
“Do we have reserves? Yeah, we have reserves, but we also have a lot of streets to take care of, and we have a lot of parks to take care of,” Blad said. “We have 600 other employees and the police department to take care of. So the City Council really, truly is balancing this budget and trying to be fair across the board.”
The city council is also asking for a raise to bump up council salaries from $10,000 to $15,000, saying it’s costing council members more to serve than they’re earning.
Davis agrees, but says this is a safety issue.
“They don’t put bulletproof vests on to go to those meetings. They don’t get shot at. They don’t have to pull dead bodies out of buildings. They don’t have to pull people apart who are trying to kill each other. They don’t do that and when the people who do that — who are not getting paid — see that increase, that’s hurtful,” Davis said.
Blad reassured the city is finding a solution to meet everyone’s needs, and says anyone can watch the negotiations on the city’s YouTube channel.
Further negotiations will continue on July 2.