DeKalb officers fighting for raises

 DeKalb Police recruits practice their skills earlier this year. Officers have vowed to fight for salary raises. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

While some DeKalb County police officers are leaving for financially greener pastures, others have vowed to fight for pay increase.

“This defeatism and standing idly by while the department loses the core of what makes it great ends today,” DeKalb County Sgt. Erik Heimer told county commissioners Dec. 8. “From this moment forward DeKalb County police officers will be present at every board meeting, community function, fundraiser or public forum that’s given to address the honorable commissioners until the issue of pay raises for police officers has been changed.”

Approximately a dozen officers stood in support when Heimer addressed the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

Heimer, a sworn officer for more than 12 years, said he stopped receiving raises in 2006 “due to economic strife in the county.” “While my salary [has] stayed stagnate, inflation and the cost of living has continued to rise, making it more difficult every year to make ends meet for my family,” said Heimer, a DeKalb homeowner whose children attend schools in the county.

According to DeKalb County’s website, the pay for police officers tops out at $66,636 per year, Heimer noted.

“At this time I’m still more than $10,000 short of this mark,” he said. “And under the current conditions of not receiving additional raises I will never reach this amount.

“I’m not alone in this dilemma,” Heimer said. “Every month more and more seasoned, effective officers are leaving this department for other agencies or going to work in the private sector.”

 These officers are not leaving because they dislike their jobs, Heimer told commissioners.

“On the contrary, they relish the opportunity to support and serve DeKalb County,” he said. “But they can’t afford to survive and have to abandon the county for the betterment of their families.” 

In September 2013, interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May, acknowledging that public safety personnel had not received a raise or any type of cost-of-living adjustment since 2008, announced bonuses for all sworn public safety personnel, a tuition reimbursement program, promotional pay increases and an aggressive hiring plan. In 2013 commissioners approved a plan to give sworn public safety personnel a one-time 3 percent bonus effective December 2013.

In December 2013, May proposed up to a 3 percent raise for all employees, including police officers, which became effective at midyear 2014. The county’s 2014 budget included funding for 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters, and restored promotional pay increases for officers that assumed additional responsibilities over the years. It included funding for a take-home car initiative for police officers.

While there was no pay increase in 2015, the county funded a pay and class study to look at the issues of class and compensation county-wide. This study is nearly finished, and the Board of Commissioners has been briefed on initial findings.

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