Lafayette Chief of Police Jim Craft admits to having a hard time hiring police officers. He noted that the pay is too low for an entry level officer. Plus, local industry is sitting on big bucks with a willingness to pay. The city parish council got wind of it during a budget briefing Tuesday.
Fire Chief Robert Benoit and Police Chief Jim Craft are basically in the same boat. Public safety is their job and a growing population is the challenge. Benoit explains that it's time for the grading process for fire rating.
If the rating falls short, insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses could go up. "The fact that the city is consistently growing, then there's a chance you're going to lose this rating and there's a chance that if we continue to grow we're going to need more than the two fire stations we don't have on the books as of yet," says Benoit
Meanwhile, Police Chief Jim Craft has 17 sworn and three civilian vacancies on his books to fill. "You got to be able to pay them and you got to be able to give them some increases to deal with the increase costs for their families and everything else," says Craft.
In a comparison study, Lafayette pays an entry level officer $31,960. Broussard is said to be paying a little over $34,000 and Youngsville about $32,400. Even businesses are weighing-in. "And now that the oil filled has picked back up were in competition with companies that can offer some pretty high starting salaries."
Craft explained that two years of no salary increases can make entry level recruitment challenging. Even promoting an officer can take a while - since it's based on priority. "You do exit interviews with them and they say I'm leaving on the fact that what you're paying I can go here or I can make this."
The next budget briefing is Thursday, August 8. The offices that the council will hear form include Community Development, Adult Corrections and Recreation.