Tupelo citizen calls on city leaders to increase police pay

Matt Wesson says the disparity in pay compared with other agencies is a crisis and must be remedied

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – A Tupelo resident is sounding a warning about what he believes is a crisis in the Tupelo Police Department.

He recently took his concerns to the City Council after he found out that Tupelo is losing experienced officers, because of pay.

It was during the city council’s public comment session when Dr. Matt Wesson sounded an alarm.

“We have a crisis in our police department. The crisis? Tupelo is losing many of our most experienced, trained officers to other cities because our pay scale is significantly lower,” Wesson said.

The retired eye doctor said he learned about the issue when talking with some friends in the department.

Wesson said he’s not criticizing city leaders.

He just wanted to make sure council members know about the disparity in pay, and take action.

“We lost nine officers last year and stand to lose ten to fifteen this year, which is about twenty percent of our force,” Wesson said.

Wesson provided a graph showing how pay at Tupelo PD compares with other agencies. Here are some examples:

A rookie officer starts at $45,883 in Tupelo. At the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, deputies start at $49,489. Southaven’s starting pay is $59,256 and at Olive Branch, rookie officers make $59,396.

The situation is the same for experienced officers. Tupelo pays lieutenants $62,927. A lieutenant at Lee County makes $73,130. At Southaven, the lieutenant can make $77,395, and Olive Branch pays lieutenants $64,251.

And while some details at Tupelo PD get overtime pay, most overtime is paid in comp time hours.

With a shortage of personnel, it can be tough at times for officers to use that comp time.

Wesson said Tupelo’s police department has a great reputation, but the pay should be in line with the type of work officers are called to do every day.

“The job the police have is much more dangerous than any other city job, if they go out, have to stop a car at 3 a.m., or go to a domestic dispute, they don’t know if they will end up in hospital, morgue or get to go home,” Wesson said.

City leaders and department heads routinely start talking about budget matters in the spring and summer. Wesson said he planned on going to each council member encouraging them to take action before then.

Neither Mayor Todd Jordan nor Chief John Quaka could discuss the pay issue because it involves city personnel matters.

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