When they met Tuesday, Leavenworth city commissioners listened to a proposal for setting up a new pay structure for police officers.
Police Chief Pat Kitchens said the Leavenworth Police Department has been struggling to retain officers. He proposed a new step system for salaries as a way to combat the problem.
"What we have now is failing miserably," he said.
No formal action was taken during what was a study session. But commissioners reached a consensus to move the issue forward for possible future action.
Kitchens said the current pay structure doesn't provide adequate emphasis on things such as experience, training and performance.
"It sort of lumps everybody together," he said.
He offered an example of an officer who has worked for the department for six years and, at the beginning of next year, will be making only $37 per year more than the starting salary for a new officer.
Kitchens proposed a pay system that creates additional steps for officers. Under the system, there would be a police officer I step, which could be achieved after three years of service. There also would be a police officer II step for people who have at least seven years of service and a police officer III step for people with at least 15 years of service. Each step would come with a 7.5 percent pay increase. There would be similar steps for detectives and sergeants.
Kitchens said reaching the steps would not be automatic. In addition to the length of service required, officers would have to meet training and performance requirements.
Commissioners were told the Police Department has a way to pay for the program in 2013 by freezing two vacant police officer positions.
The program would have continue to be funded in future years.
The cost for 2013 would be $93,000. The cost in 2014 when fully implemented would be $160,000.
In addition to helping retain officers, the program also may help with recruitment, City Manager Scott Miller said.
"They know what is in store for them down the road," he said of prospective officers.
Commissioner Phil Urban said if the pay system is approved, he wants something in place to prevent future salary compaction, which is the problem the Police Department faces with starting salaries being almost equal to those of veteran employees.