By Joe Lapointe
Bill Dwyer, the police commissioner of Warren, likes to staff his department with officers trained by Detroit and experienced in the Motor City. “I just hired six,” he says in a phone interview.
One reason for the migration: He can pay more than they make south of Eight Mile Road.
“Some [in Detroit] make as much as you make at McDonald’s,” says Dwyer, who spent 23 years on the Detroit Police force.
He’s not exaggerating by much. According Mark Diaz, the president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, Detroit cops start at $36,000 per year and will top out at $61,000 in 2020, when the current contract expires on June 30 of that year.
Poaching Trained Talent
According to a job search site, salary.com, the average Detroit police wage is $49,792 annually and the average Warren police salary is $59,268. And Warren is hardly the only place in Michigan and elsewhere poaching officers trained at city expense in Detroit’s Police Academy.
Chief James Craig and Willie Bell – the chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners – hope to reduce the exodus, perhaps during the coming contract negotiations with the D.P.O.A.
“We are working vigorously with the mayor to really find a way to stop it, to make it more difficult for someone who just wants to use this department to get the free training and then move on to another department,” Craig said recently after a graduation ceremony for new officers at the Greater Grace Church on the west side. “It hurts the taxpayers.”
Aside from raising their salaries, benefits and pensions – as the union suggests – how else might Detroit keep cops?
“We have a plan in place,” Craig says. “I’m not going to reveal exactly what that is.”
Five-Year Minimum Commitment
Bell, from the police commission, said Mayor Mike Duggan knows the plan.
“The mayor is aggressively working to see if he can come up with a legal contract that will stand the test to bind them to some form of a commitment of five years,” Bell said. “And, if they leave early, there will be some form of reimbursement if they leave to go to another department.”
Diaz, from the union, said the DPOA gave up a lot when negotiating its last contract while the city was in bankruptcy and under control of a financial manager.
“We’ve taken the blunt of the cut,” he said. “Our officers are burning out.”
Now that the city is economically healthier, Diaz has a solution: “Better pay and benefits. It’s 100 per ent on the shoulders of the mayor.”
Duggan did not respond to several interview requests.
Diaz said the bargaining might end in binding arbitration and added “Arbitration would be incredibly unfortunate.” Referring to the loss of officers, he added: “Stop that bleed. One-hundred-and-sixty left the city of Detroit just this year. That’s insane.”