Officer pay keeping officers away

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Crime is on the rise, but the number of police officers on the street is declining, and at this point, Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper and Minden Police Association President Jason Smith are handcuffed.

“We get applicants, we train them and put them to work, then they leave and go some place where they can get paid more,” Smith said. “Our officers’ starting pay is $13.75 an hour. Why would they want to put their lives on the line every day for that amount of money when they can go elsewhere for more?”

Cropper says his hands are completely tied. The only route for better pay is a raise by the Minden City Council.

The chief, who has been in the restaurant business, said people who work at a fast food drive-in restaurant make almost as much as those who give their lives to keep the community safe.

“It’s sad, is what it is,” he said.

Minden PD is down seven officers, as of Monday, August 9.

“I’m budgeted for 34, including myself,” said the chief. “I have one non-civil service employee who is counted in that number.”

It was once more inconvenient to apply to take the Civil Service test to become an officer. Now, an applicant can take the exam online.

“You still have to submit an application through Civil Service website,” Cropper explained. “Before, once you submitted it, a state examiner would submit it to whatever agency was giving the test.”

It could mean driving to Monroe, Minden, Baton Rouge or somewhere in between to take the test.

Now, after the application is submitted online, a state examiner contacts the applicant to let them know the test is available online, using a monitoring service called ProctorU. Cost is $40, paid to ProctorU for their services.

“It’s a much quicker turnaround,” Cropper said. “It used to take four weeks to get your results.”

Right now MPD has two viable applicants, one male and one female.

Promotional tests are given in-house, but the state board sends someone to give it, he said.

In May, the Minden City Council voted to allow Cropper to change his rank and position roster.

“It should be like a pyramid with the chief at the top,” Smith said. “Ours wasn’t that way.”

Most notable are the drops in number from 12 lieutenants to 9, a raise from 4 sergeants to 9 and a drop from 13 officers first class to 12. No one was fired or laid off to achieve these goals. It was done by attrition.