Police officers in Carrboro will soon be getting a raise, per a resolution that the Carrboro Town Council unanimously approved during its Jan. 18 meeting.
The Town of Carrboro will now provide a starting salary of minimum $46,000 annually for police officers. The current minimum is about $42,900.
Police trainees have the greatest percent increase at 12 percent, growing from $33,400 to $37,400. Additionally, the police chief's salary will now grow 4.9 percent — from about $80,850 to $84,850.
The funds for the salary raise will come out of the police budget that has already been allocated by the town manager’s office. The overall police budget has not increased.
“At least in the current fiscal year [this] does not entail an increase in the department's budget,” Damon Seils, Mayor of Carrboro, said.
This increase in salary is due to recruitment and retention issues.
Chris Atack, Chief of Police in Carrboro, said the department has experienced consistent issues with turnover, recruitment and retention, especially over the past year.
“We really had to reassess what we were offering and how we could be more competitive to bring the folks here that we need that are equipped to do that job that we need Carrboro police officers to do,” Atack said.
He said the police department has been working with the town manager and Council to find solutions to these issues.
“When you run short for an extended period of time, it really changes an organization’s focus from one of service to more of a crisis management,” Atack said.
Carrboro Town Council Member Barbara Foushee said this market-rate salary adjustment comes because of concerns over competition in neighboring jurisdictions with compensation. She said the raised pay will help with retaining and recruiting efforts as well as police morale.
“A lot of it has to do with the competitive nature now as we have gotten officers into the department and end up losing them,” she said.
Seils said there is a high turnover of employees and some vacancies in the police department.
“Our manager recommended, and we agreed, that we needed to take a look at our compensation plan for our police department," he said.
Salary raise among calls to defund
This decision to raise police salaries comes nearly two years after George Floyd's murder in May 2020, which evoked calls across the country to defund the police.
Yonathan Taye, executive member of Community Justice, Abolition and Anti-Racism at UNC, said raising police salaries is counterproductive.
“I think me and my fellows at CJAA will agree that, while the labor shortage and stagnant and depressed wages are an important issue that needs to be addressed, we believe that the influx of police that they’re trying to achieve by raising police salaries would be counterproductive to the interests of the people in Carrboro.”
Foushee said that while she doesn't support defunding the police, she understands the rationale.
“People that look like me die at the hands of police almost daily, but I do see a reason to have a police department," Foushee said. "Certainly our town council is looking for other ways to reimagine community and public safety.
The Town Council constructed a Community Safety Taskforce that Foushee said will help reimagine public safety in Carrboro. The Community Safety Taskforce explores alternatives to traditional policing.
“There are some instances where a gun and a badge are not needed,” Foushee said. “This is what this task force is going to be wrestling with.”
Carrboro Town Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said that they were supportive of the Community Safety Taskforce.
“We really need to look at having a task force whose job it is to get a sense from the community, what is it about community safety that can be shifted over to more of a community relations and public engagement component," Haven-O’Donnell said.
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