LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The economy and public safety clashed at Monday's Lubbock City Council meeting. This, after the Lubbock Professional Police Association proposed an increase in pay, saying it would make the Hub City more attractive to new recruits.
In a 6 to 1 vote the Lubbock City Council tabled the issue of a pay increase for the Lubbock Police Department pushing it to next month. Officers were disappointed in the council's decision.
That was not the decision members of the LPPA wanted to hear. As soon as the vote was over 130 officers left city hall very disappointed. "We're very disappointed. We're tax payers here too and for them to table this - we're not very happy," says LPPA President Lane McClanahan.
The proposal to increase pay works like this; the department is authorized to have 422 officers and currently they have 362. That leaves nearly 60 vacancies and the association says dozens of those positions have been vacant for years. The proposal includes lowering the number of officers to 390 which would still allow them to hire 28 new officers all the while keeping the current budget for police salaries the same. The city would still fund 422 positions but would only have 390 officers and the additional money would be used to provide raises.
"You praise them and then you slap them in the face," said Councilwoman Linda DeLeon, the lone vote to not table the issue. "You want lives to be safe? They've always bragged when campaigning for public safety but by the vote they took today I don't think so," adds DeLeon.
But Mayor Tom Martin says there are still details to work out. "They want a pay raise and a substantial one. We have a lot of things to look at especially with the current downturn in the national and state economy," says Martin.
LPPA says it takes money to recruit and retain officers and remain competitive. "They are looking at top dollar and that's where they are going and we want top recruits - but they are going elsewhere for the top dollar and we have a problem," says Detective Brandon Price.
It's a problem they say they want to get ahead of. LPD anticipates 100 officers to retire by 2014 and says it takes nearly two years to move a new recruit from the academy to the streets. "Our man power is being stretched so thin. It's a safety issue for citizens and officers working the streets," says McClanahan.
Mayor Martin disagrees and doesn't believe this is a public safety issue. He says he hopes to sit down with the department and discuss the numbers in private. LPPA says they will be back for the May 14th council meeting.
Councilwoman Linda DeLeon was the only council member to vote to make a decision Monday. "I understand a spreadsheet was put together and presented by John Leonard many officers believe this is a personal vendetta because his incident didn't go the way he wanted and has personal feelings to grind against the Department," says DeLeon.
The incident DeLeon refered to happened December 24th when Councilman Leonard was injured in a fight with three men outside his Southwest Lubbock apartment. No charges were ever filed. This is what Councilman Leonard had to say about Deleon's accusation.
"I'm not surprised. Unfortunately, I'm a City Council man representing District 5 and representing an entire city with my votes and need to do whats best for the city and citizens," says Leonard.
Nearly 130 officers were present for the vote and representatives of the Lubbock Professional Police Association say they are very disappointed with the decision and plan on attending the next meeting which will be May 14th.
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