City Council Responds to Police Chief's Requests

How to keep Meridian police officers is the question the MPD needs to solve. Currently 10 to 15 officers shy of the 108 he's allotted, Chief James Lee says we can fill the gap with higher pay.

"You're forced to go out and get another job, and your wife may have two jobs. You pay somebody $12.50 an hour, and this person doesn't know if he's coming home or not today," he explains.

And the City Council seems to agree. The majority of members say that for men and women who risk their lives daily, a starting salary of $24,500 a year is not enough. Some even want to look at increasing salaries in other areas like the fire department or public works. But Councilman Dustin Markham says when it comes to the MPD, it will take more than a higher salary to keep officers.

"As it relates to the cloud of negativity that we currently have over the police station, getting Civil Service back up and functioning, getting some of these hearings taken care of, I think that will go a long way in resolving some of our issues," he says.

Council President George Thomas says an increase in salaries will be looked at in the next budget, but low salaries are not to blame for retention problems.

"A lot of people were fired. That had nothing whatsoever to do with the salaries. We had certain people retire," the Council president says. "That had nothing to do with salaries. Now, will more money bring in more recruits? That's a possibility. We need to see that."

Chief Lee has also asked for at least 120 officers in next year's budget to help cut crime.

While the majority of the Council seems to agree that an officer pay raise would help both the city and police, there is a difference of opinion on whether or not making room for additional officers would also help.

The Council says the MPD first needs to reach the quota it has.