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The City Journals

Sandy follows other local cities in raising police pay

Sep 29, 2021 01:17PM ● By Justin Adams

Sandy City Police Officers will be receiving a pay raise, in order to keep pace with other cities around the valley. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

It was just a few years ago that Sandy made a historic move by raising property taxes for the first time in decades in order to fund an increased compensation package for its police department. Now the council has approved another pay increase in an effort to keep pace with other cities around the valley.

“Over the past year and a half, we’ve had some serious issues with supply and demand of police officers. We saw people leaving the profession in droves and that has left us with a shortage,” explained Sandy Police Chief Greg Severson during an Aug. 31 council meeting. 

Severson pointed to two factors that have caused officers to leave the profession: anti-police sentiment and rising wages.

“With the death of George Floyd last year, I think everyone knows there was significant civil unrest that took place. There were riots and protests all across America for a long time. Utah was not immune from that. That civil unrest led to things like the ‘defund the police’ movement. This led to a significant amount of officers leaving the profession. This has created an officer shortage in America,” Severson said.

He also pointed to rising wages more generally, noting that the starting pay for a Sandy police officer is only slightly higher than that of a bus driver for Canyons School District. 

In response to these market forces, cities around the valley have started raising their police officer pay. At the time of Sandy’s deliberations on the issue, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, West Valley City, West Jordan and South Jordan had already adjusted their pay scales, with many other cities considering the same. 

Previously, the average starting pay for a police officer in Salt Lake County was about $21-22, according to Sandy HR Director Katrina Frederick. The current round of adjustments has brought that average up to $27-28. 

Sandy City, which generally tries to be near the top of the average of comparable cities, opted for a plan that raised its starting pay to $28.36. The proposal also included raises for more experienced officers, though it is weighted towards the bottom of the pay scale, such that the highest-ranking officers would see the smallest change. 

The compensation package is expected to cost the city $1.94 million for the rest of the fiscal year (10 months) and then $2.26 million per year after that. How will the city pay for it? At least for this year, the city can fund it with a combination of departmental savings, budget surplus and funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. But starting next year, the city will have to find a more permanent source of funding. 

The proposal was passed with a unanimous vote from the city council during its Sept. 7 meeting. 

“The council is really united on this issue, as we should be, because public safety is a priority for all of us,” said Council Member Cyndi Sharkey.

“We’re signaling to the men and women of our police department that we’ve got your back,” echoed Council Member Monica Zoltanski.

Members of the police department also voiced their appreciation for the council’s decision.

“I wanted to publicly recognize how quickly the city administration and police department and city council recognized the pay deficiency and worked to address it,” said Officer Graham Tinius. “I was also taken aback by how many people spoke in support of their police department on social media. I want to thank the community for their ongoing support of the police department and for first responders.”

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting our police department in this way. Working with each and every one of you on this project has been an absolute pleasure. I just want to express my thanks to every one of you, as well as our residents for supporting the police department in this much needed time,” Severson said.