By Bonnie Culverhouse
Two Monday morning meetings this week centered around police pay, crime and the lack of police officers in Minden.
During a budget workshop with all Minden City Council members present except District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker, Minden Police Association President Jason Smith presented disturbing statistics showing the rise in crime from 2019 to August 2021 (see above).
“Low pay is 100 percent to blame for the lack of officers in our city,” Smith said. “If we increase that pay, they will come here and work. I guarantee it.”
Currently, the starting salary for a Minden Police Officer is $13.75 an hour.
Smith, who is also an Officer First Class with the Minden PD, said there are 16 officers on patrol. There are two out with injuries, “which means we have 14 officers,” Smith said, “divided by four shifts on patrol.
“There are three to four officers per shift for a 13,000 population city,” he continued. “Right now (10 a.m. Monday), there is one officer on the street until 6 o’clock (p.m.).”
Arrests since 2019 are slightly up, but the astounding number is the category of Calls for Service (including 911 calls), which has more than doubled. In fact, according to Smith’s report, several categories have more than doubled including illegal weapons violations and illegal drug violations.
Yet the number of officers has dropped from 32 to 26 (one officer was hired this week), including the chief.
Incidents by district fluctuated; however, District E’s numbers include crimes committed at Walmart on Homer Road.
“Even though incidents are steadily increasing, we are doing more with less officers,” Smith said. “We are still arresting people, though violations have doubled.”
District D Councilman Michael Roy is working with Mayor Terry Gardner to come up with ways to increase officer pay. At the rest of the council’s request, he will go over his ideas and numbers with interim City Clerk Michael Fluhr before the next budget workshop.
(City of Minden firefighters are paid at an even lower rate than officers. Watch the Webster Parish Journal for those statistics.)