By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
St. Joseph police plan to use extra money approved by voters to not only fill vacancies, but enhance the police department.
Interim Police Chief Dave Hart says there is always room for improvement in any organization and the money raised by the half-cent sales tax will address real needs.
“What we want to focus on right now is making this the best department that we can make it, so that we can attract people,” Hart tells host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline. “That’s the goal. That was the goal of the tax was to give us the tools to attract people. And now we need to work on the department to make it a place people want to be and people want to come to us so that we can get back our staffing levels and get back to doing business the way we’ve done business in the past.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved the sales tax in the General Election, giving it 70% support.
The half-cent sales tax is projected to raise $5.5 million a year, allowing the city to raise the annual starting salary of a St. Joseph police officer to $49,000. It also will provide enough money to pay for 3% annual raises, in accordance with an agreement reached between city officials and the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Hart says while the money is important, the department is seeking those who consider police work a calling.
“To a point it has to be, because of what the job demands,” Hart says. “If it’s just a job to you, then you’re only going to be here a couple of years and you’re going to go do something else. It’s very demanding and we expect a lot of our people and they deliver.”
Hart says to attract the right person, the city must be more competitive.
“We’ve taken the steps to do that, to make our pay more competitive, to work on our equipment needs, to make things a lot more enticing to people,” according to Hart. “We have to do the hard work now of getting the message out there that this is what we offer, this is the culture that we offer to people, and we want people to come and be a part of that culture.”
The St. Joseph Police Department has more than 20 vacancies. It is authorized for 138 commissioned officers.