Lexington City Council increases officers’ salaries

Members of the Lexington Police Department will see a boost in their next paycheck

Mimi Sherrill

The Lexington Police Department’s request for a 12% increase in salaries was unanimously approved during a city council meeting Oct. 21.

Lexington Police Chief Angela Greene said she has seen a significant increase in department vacancies and a decrease in qualified applicants in the last five months because her officers are overworked and underpaid.

“There is an urgent necessity to provide our police officers with positive reinforcement to show them that their extraordinary dedication and unwavering commitment to the safety of our community is valued by the elected officials of our city,” Greene said.

City Manager Jim Halasz said a Lexington police officer starts off with the lowest salary in the area when compared to Rockbridge County and Buena Vista. Halasz said Lexington police officers receive a base salary that is $4,000 below the average salary of 15 surrounding counties and regions.

 Greene said that half of her police officers make less than $40,000, and this is the main contributing factor of the workforce crisis. Every officer who left in the past five months has left for a higher paying job in another law enforcement agency, Greene said.

The Lexington Police Department has lost four of its 18 officers since May. Along with their everyday duties, police officers are expected to work the city’s 35 events throughout the year. Greene said seven of the 35 events occur on holidays such as Thanksgiving, and officers are expected to work. Greene said this has led to an unbalanced work-life environment for her officers.

Greene said she hopes this increase in salaries will assist her in retaining her current police force, but the increase in salaries will not necessarily be enough to recruit new officers amidst the uncertain political climate surrounding law enforcement.

“As I’m sure you are all aware of the national shortages in policing throughout the nation, the city of Lexington is not immune to this dire national trend,” Greene said.

Despite vacancies in the department, the Lexington police officers are still expected to perform without fault. Greene said that we ask our police officers to not only be guardians of our citizens, but also mediators, problem-solvers and guidance counselors.

“An officer can perform a multitude of these vocations during any given 12-hour work shift,” Greene said. “And they must do this without a flaw because one mishap can mean the loss of their life, a civil lawsuit or a criminal charge.”

During the city council meeting, Halasz said he would like to see the change before the next budget cycle. This year, the city will use surplus funding from recent Lexington Police Department vacancies to cover the salary increases. Moving forward, they will allocate $99,000 of the city’s budget each year towards increasing LPD salaries.

 The city council unanimously approved Greene’s request on Oct. 21. Lexington police officers will see the salary increase in their next paycheck.

“Lexington is a great community, which should attract the best and the brightest qualified applicants,” Greene said. “But due to us being the lowest paid in the region, it is hindering us from being competitive with our neighboring jurisdictions and attracting exemplary applicants.”