Jacksonville looking for police officers after three resign
by Laura Gaddy
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Jul 22, 2013 | 4553 views |  0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE -- The Jacksonville City Council accepted the resignation of two police officers Monday, leaving the city’s law enforcement department temporarily short staffed.

Police Chief Tommy Thompson said that after the resignations, the police department is three officers short.

The chief said the department had 27 officers before recent staffing changes. However, he doesn’t expect to have any trouble filling the positions. As of Monday afternoon, 41 candidates had applied for the three positions, Thompson said.

One of the two officers who resigned is Mike Denton, a long-time officer who is retiring. The other, patrol officer Brian Gay, is leaving to work for the Jacksonville State University Police Department, Thompson said.

Matthew Johnston also resigned recently to work for the Jacksonville Fire Department. That has a significant impact, Thompson said, because a loss of three officers is enough to eliminate one officer from each of the department's shifts, which are typically staffed with between five and six officers.

While he has a long list of applicants, Thompson said officers often leave the department for better paying jobs and less expensive benefits.

Starting pay for a Jacksonville Police officer is $13.78 an hour. After that they are eligible for a 2 percent pay increase each year for their first 10 years and a 2 percent raise every other year for their second 10 years, Thompson said.

Add to that health insurance, which costs city employees $256 per pay period for family coverage, and Thompson said his department isn’t competitive with some neighboring law enforcement agencies.

“We’re a little behind in starting pay and benefits,” Thompson said.

While Thompson said pay can be a deterrent to the job, Jacksonville’s lack of violent crime attracts some job candidates. Thompson added that he is in talks with city leaders about improving the pay for officers.

In a work session before the meeting, the council discussed several topics that could appear on upcoming agendas. One item was a resolution submitted by the Jacksonville Bicycle Advisory Committee to make the city more pedestrian friendly.

City Planner Lynn Causey said that after reading similar resolutions for other Alabama cities, she found the resolution to be too strict, and she also opposed a provision that would require the city to budget for Share the Road signs on almost every street in Jacksonville. Causey modified the resolution and re-submitted it to the council for consideration.

“I would like you to consider this one, which does not require that you budget money for it,” Causey said.

During the work session, the council also discussed a proposed resolution that would create a historic commission. The document has been revised from the one initially presented to the council by proponents of a historical commission. The council established a committee to resolve differences between residents who disagree about the amount of authority the historic commission should have.

The latest version of the proposed resolution would prohibit the commission from spending city money and would give the council the authority to settle disagreements between the commission and landowners. The measure also includes a provision that would give landowners a vote on whether their property would be designated as a historic district.

Historic commission proponent Jerry Klug said he supports most of the revisions, though he would like to amend some of the changes. The latest proposed document recommends that 60 percent of landowners in a proposed historic district approve of the change before it is official. Klug said he thinks just 51 percent should have to approve.

“It’s different from what I started working on two years ago, but it’s a start,” Klug said.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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