TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) The Temple Police Association met with city officials Thursday to start negotiations that could improve benefits for officers.
This was the first of several meetings aimed at boosting Temple Police Department recruitment in 2019.
With a spike in violent crime this year, association leaders say that's exactly what the city needs.
There have been concerns about not having enough manpower on patrol with several police officer positions going unfulfilled.
Currently, there are 16 vacancies on the force.
Members of the City of Temple and the Temple Police Association gathered for what's called a meet and confer agreement.
The idea is to come up with ways to attract and retain talent with competitive salaries and other benefits.
“Through meet and confer there are other things we can do such as lateral entry that civil service doesn't necessarily allow, where we can attract certified, current police officers,” says Temple Police Association President Larry Wilkey.
“So hopefully, maybe they would want to come work for the Temple Police Department and bring their experience with them."
One issue on the table is that officers who transfer from other departments can end up getting paid less than lower ranking officers.
The association would also like to close the gap between times when officers get pay raises.
Currently, after two years of service, officers have to wait every four years for a bump in pay.
Temple police are also competing with local departments to fill jobs from the same pool of candidates with comparatively lower pay.
For example, after one year of service Temple officers can expect a salary of around $50,000.
With the same amount of experience in Austin, officers get $65,000.
The meet and confer agreement will help address the question, ‘How can Temple attract new recruits in a city surrounded by other departments offering better pay?’
The answer may come through a new study being conducted by a third party firm.
It will look at the competitiveness of Temple salaries with departments in surrounding areas, and it could also offer solutions to pay gaps that do not match experience on the force, especially for transferring officers.
A similar study has been done in the past, but association leaders say since it was conducted by the city’s human resources department, officers have questioned the results.
“You get a third party in, and they have a neutral take on it,” says Wilkey.
“It's not necessarily what the police union wants, or police officers want, or city officials want- they're taking a neutral look at it,” he adds.
The study should be complete in February and will be used during negotiations for a new agreement that will start in spring 2019.
Thursday’s meeting established ground rules for negotiations and set up a preliminary schedule for future meetings.