The pay increase that the Rockwood City Council approved for the police department last month may have had the intended effect.
“They hired three officers Monday night and we’re full staff for the first time that I can remember,” Rockwood Municipal Administrator/City Recorder Becky Ruppe said.
In February, the City Council set the entry level pay for a police officer at $24 an hour.
“So if they work 80 hours it would be close to $50,000 a year,” Ruppe said.
On Monday, the City Council approved the hiring of officers Jacob Cunningham, Matthew Trantham and David Elsea to the police department. All three are coming from the Roane County Sheriff’s Office.
That’s prompting Roane County officials to consider raising the pay for its deputies to prevent people from leaving in the future. Currently, the starting pay for a Roane County deputy is $44,722.
“You don’t want to take people, but I don’t know if they are coming here because of the money,” Ruppe said. “I don’t know and I really don’t need to be answering that.”
Ruppe did point out that the city has lost police officers to the county before. For example, current Roane County Sheriff’s Office Detectives John Mayes and Randy Heidle used to work for the Rockwood Police Department.
Ruppe said the reason the City Council raised its pay for police officers had to do with being short staffed in the police department for 10 years.
“We hire two, lose one,” she said. “We hire three, lose two. It’s been a battle for 10 years. They weren’t all sure money is the answer, but we’ve been three short continually for about the past two years probably.”
Ruppe said at one point the city wasn’t even getting applications.
“We still don’t know if money is the answer, but it is what it is,” she said.