Police Officers Rally Outside N.C. City Hall to Push for Pay Increase

April 10, 2024
Raleigh police officers, who make less than officers in neighboring departments and the state's other large departments, are looking for a 15% salary hike.

By Anna Johnson

Source The News & Observer (Raleigh)

Police officers and their allies rallied outside Raleigh’s city hall Tuesday night to demand higher salaries so the department can better recruit and retain officers.

The city’s police officers make less than officers in neighboring departments and the state’s other largest departments, said Rick Armstrong, spokesperson for the Raleigh Police Protective Association.

A 15% raise would make the Raleigh Police Department’s salaries more competitive with other departments, he said.

There are 100 vacancies within the police department, he said.

“We have them going to Wake Forest,” Armstrong said. “We have them going to Cary. So a lot of surrounding police departments are, in essence, stealing our police officers, giving them a few thousand dollars more a year and they’re going. So we believe a substantial raise would stop that immediately.”

About 50 people, most off-duty Raleigh officers and law enforcement advocates, attended the rally. Several people held signs that said “Pay your protectors,” “Protect who protects you,” “Raise pay so they stay” and “Raleigh citizens deserve safety.”

The RPPA organized the rally to coincide with the Raleigh City Council meeting at the Raleigh Municipal Building.

Matthew Cooper, president of the RPPA, said officers want certainty in their pay so they can plan for their future and their families.

A petition asking for the raises has gained 200 signatures, just from Raleigh police officers, but some officers may be reluctant to speak because of retaliation they could face on the job, Armstrong said.

“In the past, there has been negative consequences for police officers who have spoken publicly about issues with their job,” Armstrong said.

If the city manager can receive a 10% raise, Armstrong asked, then why can’t “they give the rank-and-file police officers, who are out their risking their lives every day these type of raises?”

The starting salary for a police officer in Raleigh is $50,301 and the maximum a police officer can make is $88,414, according to the RPPA.

Rally attendees included Paul Fitts, a candidate for Raleigh mayor, former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and N.C. Senate candidate Scott Lassiter. Two candidates for Raleigh City Council, James Bledsoe and Whitney Hill, also spoke in favor of pay raises during the city council meeting.

Harrison attended the rally because “the average person has no idea what these law enforcement officers are going through every day.”

“A lot of times (officers) go through the academy, and then they leave to get more money,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, when they retire, they’ll get more money there. So you got to keep up with the crowd. But Raleigh, the capital city, of all people, as much as goes on in this city, they definitely should be the top dog.”

What the City Council can do

The Raleigh Police Department received a $6.5 million increase in the current budget, for a total of $130.9 million for the department. A budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, will be proposed in May and must be approved by the city council by June 30.

The Raleigh City Council didn’t discuss the budget Tuesday, but instead heard from members of the public on a variety of issues. Armstrong and others signed up to speak about the raises.

Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson addressed the Raleigh City Council, at the request of Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.

Patterson said the city is growing and struggling to keep up with the number of officers it needs.

“I would ask of the council, respectfully, that you will consider the fact that our salary rates right now are towards the bottom, and we would like to equalize it to make it higher so we can be competitive across the board,” she said.

After the meeting, Patterson told The News & Observer that a 15% pay increase would be fair and equitable.

Baldwin said she supports a “really meaningful” raise for public safety employees, including police, fire and 911 staff. She did not specify a percentage increase.

“Over the past two years we did five (percent) and five (percent), to get them to 10 percent and I think we recognize we need to do better,” she said. “I don’t have an exact number, but the city manager is working with the chief and it will be meaningful. I will support that 100 percent. Our police officers need to be paid better.

She said she was impressed with the number of law enforcement members who attended the meeting along with members of the business community, including those from the downtown area.

Raleigh is in the middle of a compensation study that will be unveiled in time for the 2025-26 budget.

Police officers shouldn’t wait for another pay study that will be outdated by the time it is implemented, Armstrong said.

“It’s just kicking the can down the road again,” he said. “We’ve got to do something more immediate.”

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©2024 Raleigh News & Observer.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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