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City Council votes to make Phoenix police Arizona's highest paid law enforcement

In less than two months, Phoenix police officers will collect bigger paychecks, making Phoenix Police Department the highest paid law enforcement agency in Arizona. The City Council approved a $20 million boost Wednesday night.

Pay for police recruits and officers will jump $20,000 annually. The minimum starting salary for a recruit will be almost $69,000 while an officer’s minimum will be nearly $73,000. Sergeants’ pay will increase $30,000; lieutenants close to $50,000. 

The people covering those salaries — residents — waited hours for their chance to address the council after the item was moved to the end of the agenda. 

“We can’t afford to lose any more officers,” a woman told the council.

“The current response times to all calls for service are unacceptable,” said Darrell Kriplean, president of Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which represents officers.

“We have to be competitive so that we do not compromise the safety and security of our citizens,” a business owner said.

“The city can and should provide both competitive wages and demand accountability from law enforcement,” a woman said.

“I am one of the Black Lives Matter protesters who was accused of false gang charges in 2020 by the same department that you all now want to give millions more dollars to,” said a woman.

“This vote isn’t about the pay raises,” said Shalae Flores with the community-based nonprofit Poder in Action. “This vote is about who gets to live and who is left to die. Literally die from police violence, from overdoses, from the heat, and from lack of shelter — all things that are preventable when cities put the well-being of people first.

The only council member to vote against higher police pay was Carlos Garcia. He’s advocated for less money going to the police department and more to support mental health and homeless services and low-income housing. 

“We’re missing a lot of housing staff, we have a housing crisis and our development department does not have the staff to keep up with permitting or approving newer homes being built,” he said.

After Garcia asked about vacancies in other departments, City Manager Jeff Barton said out of 1,300 open positions in May, about half belong to police with no other department experiencing similar losses. Barton said the next closest was the fire department with about 183 followed by the parks and recreation department with 106 vacancies. 

“At the end of the day, my grandmother always told me you get what you pay for. So if we want the best, we’ve gotta pay the best, and that doesn't mean just police and fire, that means everybody from every position that we have that serves our community,” he said.

Garcia responded, “I think I’ll close with this. With that same saying, what your grandma said — ‘you get what you pay for’ — the fact that we’re prioritizing police and that’s what we’re paying for, that’s also the message that we’re sending out and we’ve recognized that police aren’t good for everything, I think you’ve all said it, we’ve had police sit up here and say it.”   

Mayor Kate Gallego said people do not work for the city to get “fabulously wealthy” — they come to serve the community, like the Phoenix officer ambushed and shot multiple times this week. Gallego talked about visiting her in the hospital.

“There is no amount of compensation that motivates that — that has to come from your heart.” — Mayor Kate Gallego

“She was trying to figure out how she could overcome some very serious injuries to get back out there in the field. There is no amount of compensation that motivates that — that has to come from your heart,” she said.

The mayor called police raises a wise investment — especially in a tight labor market — and pointed out recent raises and bonuses for other employees like 911 operators and lifeguards, with more to come when a citywide compensation study is finalized early next year.

The $19.8 million estimated cost for police raises for fiscal year 2022-2023 will come from the department’s existing budget, specifically from unfilled positions. In March 2022, Phoenix was short more than 400 officers. In February, Chief Jeri Williams announced plans to reassign about 120 officer and sergeant level positions to patrol. Last year, Phoenix began offering hiring bonuses up to $7,500.

A closer look at salaries

Here are the minimum annual salaries (excluding benefits/pension) listed as current and approved to take effect Aug. 8 for Phoenix police:

Position Current minimum New minimum
Recruit $41,558 $68,661
Officer $48,194 $72,779
Sergeant $76,398 $105,976
Lieutenant $91,416 $138,840
Commander $105,331 $167,274
Commander/assistant chief $114,275 $188,198
Commander/executive assistant chief: $124,010 $207,022

Annual minimum compensation, which includes salary, benefits/pension:

Recruit: $147,564
Officer: $155,521
Sergeant: $213,682
Lieutenant: $256,757
Commander: $307,885
Commander/assistant chief: $334,025
Commander/executive assistant chief: $355,710
Chief: $373,607

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.