Recently-approved pay raises seem to be helping the Columbus Police Department attract new officers.
That was what Police Chief Oscar Lewis told the Columbus Police Overview Committee during the body’s monthly meeting on Thursday.
Lewis said the department is working to review about 25 new applications.
Assistant Chief Fred Shelton said the total includes about 10 to 15 applications the city already received that are being reviewed.
CPD currently has 43 officers, Lewis said. The city has budgeted for up to 77.
Mayor Robert Smith said he hopes the city can get 10 to 12 officers out of the new round of applicants. Shelton said applicants will undergo a physical fitness test over the weekend.
With the new scale, Smith said, CPD has the highest pay for officers in the Golden Triangle. He said CPD’s pay even starts out higher than Tupelo Police Department’s, though the two departments even out higher in the pay schedule.
The city council approved a new pay scale that included immediate raises for police officers on Oct. 18.
Under the new scale, entry-level officer pay will rise from $31,915 to $34,986; base certified officer and patrolman pay will rise from $37,500 to $38,485; corporal base pay will rise from $39,222 to $41,192; sergeant base pay will rise from $44,839 to $47,081; lieutenant base pay will rise from $49,956 to $52,454 and captain base pay will rise from $53,560 to $59,037.
A 3-percent raise every five years is built into the pay scale for every rank except captain.
Lewis also noted officials would pick up five Dodge Challengers for the police department after Thursday’s meeting. CPD is working to implement a take-home program for officer cars.
“Between the raises and incentives and the way things are going, I don’t see anything but things turning around for the better,” Lewis said. “Already, we’ve had some (CPD officers who have recently left the department) wanting to come back.”
The city’s public information officer Joe Dillon also said the city should launch a new website to help recruit police within the next month. He said the city has been working on the site for a few weeks.
“We’re revealing a website called joincpd.org,” Dillon said. “For people who are interested in becoming police officers, it will be a one-stop place — it’ll say how much it pays and what it’s like to be a police officer. It will tell them about the requirements to be a police officer.”
The committee honored officer Max Branch for his work in helping the family of a motorcyclist injured in a wreck on Highway 45.
The accident occurred at about 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the intersection of Highway 45 and 31st Avenue. A motorcycle collided with a Nissan Avalanche pickup that was attempting to turn onto the 31st Avenue intersection.
Shawn Stallings, the motorcyclist, was seriously hurt in the accident and taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle. From there, a helicopter flew him to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
Branch helped Stallings’ family spend a few moments with him before the helicopter took him to the hospital.
“We had to clear the family members off the helipad for the helicopter to land,” Branch said. “Me being a father and having a wife, I know my wife and my kid would want to see me just for a minute.”
“For me, it’s not going above, it’s showing people we care,” Branch added. “If we showed people everywhere that we care, we’d be better off.”
Committee Chairman Rev. Steven James thanked Branch for his work and presented a Harvey’s gift card for his recognition.
“We need more officers like that — that care,” James said. “We have a lot of good officers, but we just appreciate you for what you did.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.