Bonuses for Lexington public safety workers aimed at retention
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington public safety departments are still struggling with staffing shortages, and vacancies continue to increase each month. But a new bonus payment might help some of the departments keep their current employees and gain some new ones.
The bonuses would give current employees a total of $4,000, which would be broken into two payments. One in the fall for $1,760, and the rest in the spring or summer of 2023.
On September 1, the Lexington Police Department will be 115 sworn officers short. That number does not include the 29 recruits in the academy. President of Bluegrass Fraternal Order of Police Jeremy Russell says the primary problem is their compensation.
“Everything is below all the surrounding areas, so if people are interested in doing one of these jobs, whether it be a police officer, dispatcher or going into corrections. They can go into one of the surrounding counties or a little bit further away and make more money and have better benefits,” Russell said.
He said last April they were about 65 sworn officers short, and the numbers continue to increase. And even with the new bonuses, Russell says it’s only a temporary fix.
“Everyone is completely appreciative of anything that can be done. We know that the council mayor making efforts to try to improve recruitments and retention. Unfortunately it’s a small temporary fix to a long term problem,” Russell said.
He says they’re far behind when it comes to recruitment and retention, and even when they are fully staffed at their authorized strength, they still wouldn’t have enough officers to reach the national standard. He says the Lexington Police Department loses an average of five officers a month.
“Right now, we have 29 recruits in the academy. You can expect them to hit the streets after 11 months of training. So, 29 recruits, and if we lose five a month, we would lose 55 by gaining 29, so it needs to be a priority now,” Russell said.
Many of the vacancies for the public safety department are in the police department, corrections, and E-911, and these are the departments that will be getting the bonuses.
Even though the council gave initial approval on Tuesday, a final vote for the bonuses is expected on September 8.
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