DETROIT—In an effort to prevent other police departments from poaching Detroit cops, the Detroit City Council Tuesday unanimously approved $2,000 incentive bonuses for each officer.
Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James White announced the influx of nearly $5 million, which also will provide $1,000 for each part-time police assistant on the force, during a press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
"In Detroit, there's no talk of defunding police; we want to put more money behind our officers, and this is a clear statement of that today," Duggan said.
The initiative will be paid for by federal American Rescue Act funds, the city's General Fund and money that was allocated for overtime, White said.
The chief added that he hoped Tuesday's council vote would "curb the alarming number of our officers who are leaving. We've been doing a good job with recruiting but retention is what we want to emphasize."
White said 19 Detroit officers have left for other departments so far in 2022, while 103 officers abdicated in 2021. That doesn't count officers who retired, he said.
There are about 2,000 sworn officers on the Detroit force, including the part-time police assistants, with about 500 civilian employees, Duggan and White said Tuesday.
"Our officers get some of the best training in the country, and they're exposed to a number of challenges in a short period of time, which makes other departments want to recruit them," White said.
City Councilman Fred Durhal III said Tuesday's vote was to "show our officers how much we appreciate them, and also to work toward retaining them here in Detroit. They've stuck here when times are difficult, so they should be rewarded."
The bonuses do not have to be repaid if officers ultimately leave the department, the city said.
Detroit is one of the few municipalities in Michigan that pays for officer training, whereas other departments require candidates to foot the bill for Michigan Coalition on Law Enforcement Standards training, which state officials estimate can run from about $6,000 to $10,000.
Candidates often take the free training and then bolt for higher-paying jobs in the suburbs, with many leaving for Warren, White said.
"Some officers walk in the door knowing they're going to work for another department," White said. "We've got people who use us just for training purposes."
Duggan said he has a problem with other communities recruiting Detroit cops after the city has paid for their training. "It's not OK," Duggan said. "Train your own officers."
Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer did not immediately respond to a message left seeking comment.
The issue isn't new. In 2014, there was an effort to retain officers after recruiters from Toledo, Houston and other cities were showing up at the Detroit Police Academy to lure officers.
A bill was introduced in the state legislature in 2018 that would have required officers who leave their departments within a few years of receiving free training to repay a portion of the training costs. The bill fizzled.
A big part of the challenge to retaining officers, White said, is "economics."
"Often when I talk to officers during exit interviews, I hear, 'I love the department, but,'" he said. "Sometimes it's economics; sometimes they want a slower pace."
Duggan said starting annual salaries for Detroit cops have risen from about $28,000 in 2014 to about $45,000, and said he hopes that will increase further. Negotiations are ongoing for police labor contracts, which expire July 1.
"That's still not as high as in the suburbs, but we've gone a long way toward closing the gap," Duggan said.
Mark Young, president of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, said he was grateful for the bonuses.
"The men and women of the Detroit Police Department go out there courageously and selflessly every day," Young said. "We appreciate working toward making this a career, and not a job."
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