MIAMI (CBSMiami) – City of Miami commissioners are working to find millions of dollars in the city’s budget to increase police pay in response to an outcry from officers and residents regarding public safety.
“This is a cry for help this is a last straw before things really get bad in the city,” said Javier Ortiz with Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police.
Hundreds of Miami police officers showed up to Thursday’s budget hearing to beg local leaders for better salaries and benefits, which have been slashed in recent years. They say they risk their lives to protect our community yet are underpaid and feel under appreciated.
“They don’t care,” said Miami Police Detective Thomas Reyes. “My pay is less now than it was four or five years ago.”
Miami and Coral Gables residents also showed up, concerned about an increase in crime in the community. They demanded commissioners prioritize public safety by reallocating $10 million from the 2014 budget to hire 100 new officers.
“The city’s responsibility to residents is to protect, serve and provide and that’s not happening,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami resident and business owner.
Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police supports the call for new hires, but says part of the money needs to go towards compensating our current officers, whose pay and benefits have been slashed in recent years.
FOP also says no matter how many new positions open up, without competitive pay the department won’t be able to fill them because there is no incentive to apply. To make their point, the police union launched an ad campaign last month telling potential police candidates not to apply to the Miami Police Department.
“With $10 million dollars we would be able to raise salaries in order to be competitive with surrounding law enforcement agencies as well as well be able to hire another 100 officers which will help the crime spike,” said Ortiz.
Disillusioned with the department, many officers said they are ready to walk if nothing changes.
“I’ve applied to three other agencies because I don’t feel like I’m appreciated by City of Miami officials,” said one officer.
Mayor Tomas Regalado says the city can’t afford pay increases and new hires– unless they take money from a different department.
“If we were hiring 100 police officers we would have to cut other departments or other services,” said Regalado.
Commissioners did approve a 3 percent bonus for all city employees, including police officers this fiscal year. The budget also includes funds to hire 25 additional officers.
Commissioners have asked the city manager to find $9 million dollars in the budget that can be used to increase pay and make new hires. A decision on this issue is expected at the final budget hearing on September 26th.