The Kenai City Council voted last week to increase the pay rates for Kenai Police Officers in an effort to bolster recruitment and retention.
Ordinance 3098-2019, which passed the city council by a unanimous vote on Dec. 18, makes several changes to the pay structure for Kenai Police Officers and authorizes the city manager to give additional bonuses to new hires.
“This ordinance is a culmination of an effort that started in September of 2018,” City Manager Paul Ostrander said during the council meeting on Dec. 18. Ostrander said that Human Resources Director Stormy Brown and Kenai Police Chief David Ross recommended the changes included in the ordinance in order to make the Kenai Police Department more competitive with other police precincts. The Kenai Police Department has been understaffed for several months, Ostrander said.
The ordinance gives the city manager authorization to provide up to a $20,000 hiring bonus to “lateral” hires — officers that are already trained and have experience in the field. The maximum hiring bonus for officers from outside of Alaska would be $10,000 distributed over four years, and the maximum for Alaska-based officers would be $20,000 over four years. Ostrander said that the hiring bonus could potentially save the department money on training a new recruit by instead hiring someone who has already completed police academy training that is recognized by the Alaska Police Standards Council. The cost to send a new recruit through the Department of Public Safety Academy in Sitka is $13,500, Ostrander said.
In addition to granting the city manager the ability to offer hiring bonuses, the ordinance will also increase the shift differential pay for officers. The pay rate for Kenai Police Officers varies depending on the time of day that they are on the clock. Currently, the shift differential pay rate is an additional 2% for shifts that start between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., while shifts that start between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. currently pay an extra 4%. With the passage of Ordinance 3098-2019, those rates will increase to 3% and 6% respectively, which Ostrander said puts Kenai more in line with the “standard” rates seen elsewhere in Alaska.
The ordinance also provides for a 5% increase in base salary for officers that take on the position of Field Training Officer. Field Training Officers are assigned to new hires in the department for their first three months on the job, and officers given the title of field training officer do not currently receive additional pay.
Officers given the title of investigator will also receive a 5% pay increase as part of the ordinance. Investigating officers are not eligible for shift differential pay, so the increase is a way to compensate the officers for their additional responsibilities, Ostrander said.
Finally, the ordinance includes language that requires the promotion of a patrol officer to a senior officer after five years of service and provides an increase in the pay range for senior officers, sergeants and lieutenants.
Included in the ordinance is a request for additional funding in the amount of $13,755 for fiscal year 2019. Ostrander said that the cost for subsequent years is estimated to be about $115,000 annually, assuming full staffing of the police department. The ordinance was enacted on Dec. 18 and will take effect on Jan. 17, 2020.