It’s tough times recruiting in Cambridge, according to FOP Cambridge-Dorchester Lodge No. 27 President Tom Hurley.
Mr. Hurley attended a City Council meeting this spring to discuss pay and recruitment issues following a commentary in the Dorchester Banner earlier this year.
“The main issue is the loss of officers due to all that is going on within our country, our state and the City of Cambridge,” he said in an email.
The city’s force is down by about 30 percent. Earlier this year, there were two cadets in the academy, but four had already been lost.
“The pay issue is so bad that the department cannot keep officers much past five years before they quit and go elsewhere. 56 percent of the department has five years or less of service,” he said.
At the meeting, council members pledged to find funds to boost officers’ pay.
But regardless of salaries, there are ongoing questions across the country about officers’ roles and actions. Those questions reveal resentments and sometimes open opposition to police forces.
Hurley wrote, “There is a strong move to ‘Reform the Police’ also because the police are now the poster child of all the problems that we have in this country, which is not true. Is there room for improvement … Yes, there is always room for improvement. Can some things be done better? … Yes, police are always trying to do things better with better equipment and training.”
Wicomico County officials just recently approved a new three-year contract with their sheriff’s deputies.
Beginning deputies will be paid $45,922 annually and receive 8 percent cost-of-living wage increases each of the next five years.
The new contract increases salaries for the entire Sheriff’s Office by $833,000 over the three years, or $1.1 million when benefits are included.
Attorney Kevin Karpinsky, who negotiated the agreement on behalf of the county, said the new pay scales are competitive with other jurisdictions.
“The increases are needed because it’s becoming harder and harder to recruit,” he said. “It’s a competitive going rate for what officers are being paid.”
The Wicomico Sheriff’s Office typically carries a roster of around 100 deputies and support staff members. The office had 12 openings, but four recent hires will be attending the Criminal Justice Academy at Wor-Wic Community College beginning next week.
“Overall, the number of applicants is considerably down across the country, but our application numbers have remained steady and normal,” Lt. Tim Robinson said.
Robinson said with the new deputies currently in the training pipeline, the office is seeking to hire eight more officers.
He said the Sheriff’s Office has begun using a new digital employment application that targets possible hires and has generated recruitment interest.
“We are finding people willing to relocate, which is a really good thing,” he said. “But we are always actively local applicants who love the Eastern Shore.”
Increasing salaries for Salisbury Police Department officers has been a continuing effort on the part of Mayor Jake Day and Chief Barbara Duncan.
Salisbury increased its police payroll by about $750,000 this year. Those joining the city force are paid $44,192.