OTTUMWA — Ottumwa police officers will receive a raise with the new year as part of a revision and extension for the collective bargaining agreement.
The change was prompted by a combination of high turnover for the department and difficulties in finding new officers. Ottumwa has long trained young officers and allowed them to begin their careers in the community, only to see them take better paying jobs with other, larger departments.
Chief Tom McAndrew said officers will receive a $3 per hour raise effective Jan. 1, 2019. Additional raises are built in over the course of the agreement’s three-year extension. Other changes are dependent on the city moving to 12-hour shifts for officers, a long-planned change.
McAndrew said the city’s “starting wages as well as the top step wages for officers” are low when compared with similar cities in Iowa.
The proposal met with praise from both city council members and from the police union. Councilman Marc Roe, who has been vocal in the push for the shift change, thanked both officials and the officers for their work.
“This has been going on a two-year project at this point,” he said. “A lot of people have put in a lot of hours on all of this.”
The city previously approved changes to the contracts under which new officers are hired. Those changes include prorating the cost of training, with officers responsible for repaying a segment of those costs if they leave before serving five years. Council members hope that will encourage young officers to stay longer.
The real test of the changes approved Tuesday is whether it will ease recruiting. A spokesman for officers said he believed it will. Councilman Skip Stevens asked McAndrew about whether the department is getting local residents as recruits. Several of the potential hires are local, McAndrew said.
Two new officers are likely to join the department soon. James Avon and Carson Story were on the consent agenda Tuesday as new hires, though both must go through the state’s required training.
It will take time before the effects of the changes are seen. The city had hoped to move to 12-hour shifts well before now, and currently projects that change to take place next July. But, as with prior efforts, that depends on staffing levels within the department.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us in the future,” Roe said.