Over the past few days I have read articles on the Chattanoogan.com regarding pay raises for Chattanooga city employees and, just when I thought that nothing else that the mayor could do would surprise me, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. I am referring to the headline:
"Littlefield Makes Push For Administration Pay Increase Proposal; Says Police Who Were Left Out Of Raises "Didn't Do Anything" To Earn Them" - Chattanoogan.com June 19, 2012
"Didn't do anything" to earn them, Mr. Mayor? Whether an officer elected to participate in the Police Officer's Career Development program or not, we are the ones out there doing our dead level best to catch the criminals that prey on our citizens. We are the ones who are out there all hours of the day and night in the elements, doing everything from working traffic crashes to answering robberies, thefts and domestics. One would think that this would, if nothing else, garner a small amount of recognition and appreciation from our mayor. One would think.
There are those, especially the mayor or his spokesman, who would argue that he was referring to officers fulfilling the requirements under the POCD, so let us take a look at that for a moment. The POCD is designed so that an officer achieves a "promotion" after fulfilling the requisite number of years of service for the pay grade that he or she applies for, but it also is designed so that an officer must complete a certain number of hours of training to go along with those years of service. As each level is attained, an officer must complete a leadership course that is commensurate with the "promotion" level.
I will admit, I was impressed when I first heard of the program because it means that, as a department, we have better trained officers on the street. Before this program was implemented, additional training (other than the 40 hour annual in-service that we are state mandated to attend) was usually only undertaken by an officer when he or she decided on an area that they wished to specialize in (homicide, narcotics, etc.) Under the POCD, officers were scrambling for schools so that they could meet the requirements to get a pay raise.
One of the things that the city did was to start out offering three levels of leadership training that were taught by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service through the University of Tennessee. MTAS Level 1 was required for Police Officer Level 2, MTAS Level 2 was required for Police Officer Level 3 and MTAS Level 3 was required for Master Police Officer. I was able to complete MTAS Levels 1 and 2 before the city stopped providing this training, allowing me to attain the rank of Police Officer Level 3. More than once, during the MTAS training, I heard from the instructor that they did not understand why the city was having patrol officers go through the training, as the program was designed for all levels of management. One instructor told us that the Level 1 class would typically be held for sergeants, while Level 2 would be geared toward a lieutenant and/or captain and Level 3 would be for the upper management or administrators (chiefs).
This same instructor also pointed out that the MTAS training was not designed for law enforcement. It was developed to train department heads and city managers to become better leaders. But the city told us that we had to have the classes to achieve our promotions, so we were trained and the promotional packets were submitted, only to languish on a desk, unsigned and very few raises were actually given in that first year or so of the program.
Some officers were able to complete all three levels of the MTAS training, back to back. Officers that did not have their time in to achieve a promotion, so all they could do was sit and wait for the days to tick by until they met what the military calls, "Time in Service" requirement. I was not able to complete the MTAS Level 3 training before it was stopped and that is the only class that I need to attain the rank of Master Police Officer. The training stopped, but the requirement is still there, and the rules changed. Now it has to be an MTAS Level 3 "equivalent" school that must be completed to achieve Master Police Officer and if I want the promotion, I must pay for it. I personally take issue with that as, in a sense, I am paying for a pay raise/promotion. No, I am not paying the city to get that raise, but I must still pay for a school that my employer requires or I must languish where I am at until I can get that training.
Many of the officers, who have chosen to not participate in the POCD, have done so because the whole program is akin to watching one of those dog shows where the dog must jump through hoops, negotiate narrow platforms or weave its way through little poles to achieve their reward, a piece of kibble or some other dog treat.
The funding, that the mayor now suggests he may withhold, would pay those officers whose promotional packets were approved last year, after the budget was passed. My Police Officer Level 3 packet was approved, by my chain of command and the POCD committee in January of 2010. I received the pay for the promotion in last year's budget, one and a half years later. There was no back pay for that year and a half, although I had met the requirements and my promotion was signed off on.
Now the mayor and his staff suggest funding another "career advancement" study because "representatives of the police department are not satisfied" that the POCD is equitable. The POCD did not establish a career advancement plan for sergeants, lieutenants and captains. As a result, a number of officers were able to attain the rank of Master Police Officer and have since been promoted to sergeant, which resulted in them making as much as $5,000 more a year than much more senior sergeants. Hence the famed "pay anomaly" that has resulted from this program that everyone has heard so much about.
I have just over 12 years of service with the Chattanooga Police Department and a total of over 20 years in law enforcement, but the way that this program has been run, there are officers that barely have their 10 years of service in that outrank me, simply because they were fortunate enough to be able to attend all three levels of MTAS, as well as attending a laundry list of other required schools (that an officer must either pay for or happen upon one that is free, both of which usually requires the officer to pay for hotel, meals and provide their own transportation to and from), to get what they deserve. I am, by no means, angry at them because they earn every red cent that they make and I am truly happy for them.
When you get down to the brass tacks of this issue, it was a program that was implemented with no plan for funding and, in my opinion, I do not believe that the mayor thought that so many officers would meet the criteria for promotion. Again, it is only my opinion, but I think that the POCD was created to eliminate annual cost of living raises. Which raises another issue.
The POCD is a "Career Development" program which, someone correct me if I am wrong, but the pay increase that is built into the POCD is not a raise. It is compensation for achieving a promotion. There is no cost of living increase included in the Mayor's POCD...if an officer does not complete the schools necessary for promotion, he or she could conceivably remain at the same pay level for the remainder of their career.
If Mr. Beeland want to pull my payroll records, I have had two pay increases since 2006. One was $600 (I do not recall what year that was, so if he looks it up, he will have one over on me) and the other was when I achieved Police Officer Level 3.
The POCD has turned "getting a pay raise," from downtown, into a sort of search for the Holy Grail or having to search for the kibble once you have jumped through the hoops. As for withholding the funding, Mr. Mayor, the last time I was threatened with a playmate taking the ball and going home, I was about eight years old. Either way, we will keep doing what we do...trying our darnedest to keep this city safe. It just sucks that we have to fight crime and our boss at the same time.
Marty Penny #994
Chattanooga Police Department
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The thing is, in regard to those lazy cops not doing anything for a raise is "opportunity." While the limited number of police taking those silly classes, the rest are in the field answering a double load of calls because the man-power has been cut. That sounds just the opposite of doing nothing, right? Then you got the cops that are on lite-duty for medical reasons, that can attend all the classes they want.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. If a officer has at least 10 years working in "patrol" they should be deemed a master patrolman. Listen to your scanner or watch the news then ask yourself, how can a police officer work 10 years on those dangerous streets and be told by a politician "they" they don't deserve a raise because it's not deserved.
This is the reason they made up the term "career ladder." It's as useless as a 1999 Riverbend pin.