Commentary: Modesto police need pay raise

This editorial appeared in The Modesto Bee.

For the last several years, there has been a bidding war in California for law enforcement officers, and Modesto has gotten behind in the competition. Its salaries dropped significantly below those of some agencies, and some officers left for higher-paying jobs.

We want the city to offer fair and competitive salaries so it can keep and recruit the best police officers. It's not simply that they "put their lives on the line every day for us," as so many like to argue, but that the job is demanding in many ways – requiring intelligence, critical thinking, physical strength, stamina, constant training and, most of all, the right temperament. Many officers have college degrees.

As a career choice, law enforcement isn't nearly as popular as firefighting or, say, computer technology. Many applicants can't pass the background checks, and many recruits don't survive the academy or the field training. For these reasons, we support the City Council's approval of a new contract with the Modesto Police Officers' Association that provides more than 10 percent in pay raises over the next two-plus years. The increases begin with a 3 percent hike in June.

However – and this is a big however – council members and the police union leaders need to recognize that the timing is horrible.

This contract will have only a minor impact on the current city budget, because the raises kick in so close to the end of the fiscal year. But for 2009-10, it will raise the police department costs by $1.12 million and the following year it adds $2.5 million more to the budget.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Modesto Bee.