FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Tuesday (July 13) evening, the Fayetteville Police Department will seek approval from the city council of a sign-on awards package for new law enforcement officers. The budget sought for the "bonuses" totals $87,500.
The Fayetteville City Council will meet at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the proposed bonus package.
Police Chief Mike Reynolds told 5NEWS that there are currently seven empty positions within the department. The starting pay for a Fayetteville police officer is $19.18 an hour.
The package presented to city council members states that the Fayetteville Police Department, in 2020, experienced a 25% decrease in police officer applicants compared to the previous five-year average. In 2021, the decrease was up to 63% compared to the previous five-year average.
“The death of Officers Stephen Carr and Kevin Apple, the horrific injury to Officer Tyler Franks, the COVID-19 pandemic, increased workload, violence and assaults on officers have brought recruitment and retention challenges for law enforcement throughout NWA," Chief Reynolds said.
The proposal says the sign-on award or "bonuses" is an effort to entice prospective employees to apply and join the Fayetteville Police Department force. The proposal states, " There are currently no other departments in Northwest Arkansas offering sign-on awards: however, the Jacksonville Police Department and the Little Rock Police Department are currently using sign-on awards as a recruitment tool. Many other law enforcement agencies in the region and throughout the country have added sign-on awards as part of their compensation package to recruit new employees."
According to the proposal, if approved, the sign-on awards would be paid to new officers and based on certification. Certified law enforcement officers would be eligible for a $10,000 sign-on award payable in three installments. $2,000 would be paid after the certified officer is hired; $4,000 would be paid after completing the Field Training Officer Program. The other $4,00 would be paid after completion of an 18-month probation period.
Non-certified law enforcement officers would be eligible for a $5,000 sign-on bonus. According to the proposal, $1,000 would be paid after graduation from the Arkansas Law Enforcement training academy, $2,000 completion of the Field Training Officer Program, and the other $2,000 paid after completing the 18-month probation period.
The proposal says that any sign-on award would require the officer to commit to remaining within the Fayetteville Police Department for three years.
At the end of the proposal, the budget impact is mentioned, saying the $87,500 to fund the bonuses would come from the unreserved general fund balance for 2021. Future funding would be addressed within each annual budgeting process. The sign-on awards pay would have no impact on the number of full-time equivalent positions.
"In order to keep this City safe, keep up with the demand for police services and continue to recruit and retain high caliber personnel, we must invest in our workforce," Chief Reynolds said.