The Detroit Police Department is providing $2,000 bonuses to officers to combat chronic retention issues in the force.
The incentive unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council is the first of its kind for the department and will be paid out to more than 2,000 full-time Detroit police officers, Detroit Police Chief James White said.
“This unanimous vote is a resounding support for our officers who put it on the line every single day,” he said.
White said the department has done a great job of recruiting new officers, but officer retention has been a problem for years.
“Our officers put in tremendous hours and are exposed to a number of different challenges and things as a result, so they become the most experienced in the shortest amount of time,” White said, “which makes them the officers that a lot of our surrounding agencies want to recruit.”
White said 19 officers have left the department to work elsewhere so far in 2022, and 103 officers left DPD in 2021. Many of the officers, according to White, stated in exit interviews that they were leaving for “economic reasons.”
“And some officers walk in the door knowing that they’re going to work with another department,” he added.
White said the starting salary for a DPD officer is $45,000. Bob Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, noted starting pay for other departments around the state is upwards of $70,000, which makes it tough for Detroit to compete. Another problem, Stevenson said, is departments will hire people who have gained experience in Detroit.
“Because once they have an officer there for four or five years or ten years, they can then laterally transfer into another city and sometimes get themselves a $30,000 pay raise,” Stevenson said. “So that’s what Detroit is up against.”
Other departments across the state also offer retention bonuses, sometimes as high as $10,000. So Stevenson said Detroit’s announcement isn’t “as unique as it might sound.”
“I know that Jacksons’ (retention bonus) was $10,000, a couple of downriver departments were close to that,” he said, “but typically what they tie those with is you’ve got to stay X number of years to get the bonus.”
White said Detroit reached the $2,000 bonus amount per officer after looking at the city’s finances and talking with the city police unions.
The department is receiving nearly $5 million for the bonuses. White noted during a Tuesday press conference that the initiative is funded through the city’s general fund budget, overtime budget, and American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The announcement, White said, comes as a sign of continued support for the police department from Mayor Mike Duggan and other elected officials in Detroit.
White takes it as a compliment that so many departments want to hire Detroit police officers, but Duggan said he’s not a fan of departments who poach talent from DPD. Many of whom, the mayor said, take Detroit officers after they have graduated from the police academy that the city pays for.
“Train your own people, run your own academy,” Duggan said. “Don’t be subsidized by the city of Detroit.”
DPD Spokesperson Rudy Harper said it costs around $61,000 to put one officer through its police academy.
Duggan noted starting pay for Detroit officers was $28,000 when he took office in 2014.
The department is negotiating with city police unions to increase the starting salary for officers. The existing contracts end July 1.