Jonesboro Mayor proposes increases to minimum starting salaries for police and firefighters

by George Jared ([email protected]) 653 views 

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver said Thursday (April 21) he plans to increase minimum starting salaries for the Jonesboro police and fire departments’ personnel.

“Since my first day in office, my priority has been public safety,” Copenhaver said. “I am proposing that minimum starting salaries be increased to $42,000 from $35,190 in both departments.”

These increases would take effect in May, pending city council approval. How much this will impact the yearly budget for the city was not immediately available.

“This is important not just because it keeps us on par or above other first-class cities around the state, but because of the critical service our uniformed personnel provide,” Copenhaver said. “We strive to recruit and maintain the highest quality personnel. We can’t do that without competitive salaries.”

Police Chief Rick Elliott said this should “go a long way in helping address difficulties in hiring and retaining quality personnel.”

Fire Chief Kevin Miller said applicant numbers have been down “dramatically” the past few years. The 125 full-time positions have been difficult to fill, and the department loses five to eight firefighters a year.

“We have had a lot of trouble recruiting good applicants,” Miller said. “I believe this will help that.”

Both JFD and JPD forces have been buoyed by three new positions this year, but the police department’s full staff of 172 has rarely been filled.

“In my eight years as chief, we have been at full staff for two weeks,” Elliott said. “I feel we are the best-equipped department in the state. Now we have that same support for our officers.”

Uniformed officers receive state pension, paid vacation starting at three weeks per year and always can earn overtime pay or comp time, the chiefs said.

The pay change adds to many public safety measures taken by the administration in recent months. That includes a $2 million investment for E911 upgrades and pay raises, a camera system and real-time crime center, a JFD communications center and radio equipment, lowered speed limits in concerned areas, and an 11-hour shift schedule that puts more officers on the streets during peak times.

Other investments include $1 million in sidewalk improvements, $600,000 in body cameras and Tasers, and cost of living adjustments for current officers, including some who had not received a raise since salaries were last addressed in 2016.