Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton FOP 141 holds town council's feet to fire on salaries

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Chesterton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141 is holding the Town Council’s feet to the fire on the issue of salaries.

At the council’s meeting Monday night, FOP 141 President Lt. Joe Christian warned members, in the strongest language possible, that uncompetitive salaries will sooner rather than later threaten public safety.

Within two and half years, Christian said, 10 of the CPD’s 21 sworn officers will be eligible for retirement. Those 10--including the Chief, Assistant Chief, two lieutenants, two sergeants, and the entirety of the command staff--have an average of 23.5 years of experience. The average years of experience of the 11 remaining sworn officers: 11 years.

That youthful muster could become even more youthful, Christian said, if any of the five CPD officers “actively pursuing employment elsewhere” do in fact find greener pastures, as at least three officers have done in only the last couple of years.

The problem is the uncompetitiveness of officers’ salaries, which Christian said not only makes it hard to retain seasoned veterans but to attract the best qualified candidates. A case in point: last year the Police Commission authorized an emergency hiring process aimed at sworn officers in other departments and graduates of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Six applied for the position but only one actually showed up for testing.

“How pathetic and embarrassing is the fact that only one applicant showed up,” Christian said. “The one applicant could be the best applicant ever or could be completely unqualified. Do the citizens of Chesterton deserve better? Do they deserve to have a plethora of applicants apply and get the best that will be protecting their families and property? Yes, of course they deserve the best.”

“Only you, the Town Council, can provide the citizens with the best possible officers in the State of Indiana for our amazing citizens, the citizens who voted for you,” Christian said. “You must make public safety a priority before it’s too late.”

“We feel that the Chesterton Police Department is nearing a crisis scenario,” Christian added. “There may come a day in the very near future when the Chesterton Police Department will be unable to police the Town of Chesterton properly. The Indiana State Police or the Porter County Sheriff’s Department may need to be called in because the Chesterton Police Department cannot attract qualified applicants and hire new patrol officers when veteran officers leave or retire.”

“With the recent series of crimes that have occurred in Chesterton--murder, a gang-related armed home invasion, and a man stalking the Chesterton High School girls cross country team, exposing himself--it’s safe to say that Chesterton is not what it once was,” Christian noted. “Luckily our highly trained veteran police officers responded and solved each case.”

“We know how to stop and prevent the crisis,” Christian concluded. “We know how to keep the well-trained veteran police officers from leaving for greener, better-paid pastures. We know how to recruit the best applicants for patrol officer openings and most importantly public safety is our No. 1 priority. We are not your enemies. We should be able to sit down as a group and solve this problem, together. We are here to help you. You just have to allow us to help.”

Members did not respond to Christian’s comments.

Earlier this year, Member Dane Lafata, D-3rd--a member of an ad hoc Salary Study Group created on the recommendation of Member Jim Ton, R-1st--reported that the group has received a great deal of data on the salaries which other municipalities pay their police officers. Lafata added that the group will soon begin meeting to discuss that information, to identify salary discrepancies, and to make recommendations to the council on remedying them. Lafata did not give a timeline, however, on when the group would complete its work.

Also appointed to the Salary Study Group: Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela and Town Manager Bernie Doyle.

The council was unable to see its way clear to offer an across-the-board wage hike to municipal employees in 2018. In lieu of raises, the council did give all full-time employees a one-time $1,500 bonus.



Posted 2/13/2018




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