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Cops: Overpaid and underworked? Check the data

May 4th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Cody Littlewood

LOGAN–Officer Lyle Davis has one minute after his short break and already a call comes through his computer that involves a citizen suspected of smoking meth with a small child in the residence. This begins another part of the work day with his “clients,” as he calls them.

Davis and two other officers enter the building after a brief preparation of their plan to speak with the woman. Ten minutes later they exit, saying they didn’t notice any illegal activity. These men are all business until one of them says, “Hey, how’d you like that guy using the restroom, not washing his hands, and then shaking mine?” as the officer jokingly dives at his friend for an attempt to wipe his hand on a colleague’s uniform. They all enjoy a short laugh like a couple of friends at a barbecue. It is easy to forget they are the same people who pull us over and give us that infuriating ticket.

Davis is a veteran of the force and understands the intense scrutiny placed on the police department; he says if an officer is behaving under par, then the officer will not last long on the force.

The citizens often view the police as a whole. While they remember the one particular officer who gave them that ticket, he said, “We don’t remember that stop at all. For us, that was just one of 30 contacts that we made in a single shift.”

Davis said that because of the screening process, the officers that do make it to the force are usually very well qualified, but on occasion a mistake is made. “We [police officers] are just a cross section of society,” he said. But the department does not stand for any officer to break the law. Even minor infractions and that is the end of your career.

Logan city has been named the safest city per capita in the U.S. a couple of times, he said, and this is a combination of factors. “The citizens have a lot to do with it,” he said, “a city is a reflection of its people.”

Many people are quick to criticize police departments and Logan is no different. One of the main complaints heard in Logan is the amount of the budget that the police department receives. The Logan city police department’s budget, approved by the mayor for this fiscal year, is $6.17 million, according to the city’s expenditure budget for the year.

People complain about their new Dodge Chargers that are seemingly sports cars or a police chief that gets paid $95,719, according to Utah’s Right to Know website, which is more than the mayor or Logan.

Others may find fault with fact that six of the top 50 salaries paid by Logan city are from the police department. Twelve percent may sound like a lot, but consider that 11 of the top 50 salaries are from the fire department, amounting to 22 percent of the top salaries. Mayors commonly make less than police chiefs across the board in Utah, and Salt Lake City is a good example with a police chief that makes over $13,000 more than the mayor. As for the new Dodge Chargers? They are cheaper than the before-popular Ford Crown Victorias and the six-cylinder models are more fuel efficient, Davis said.

Still, many citizens believe that too much is invested into the police department of one of the safest cities in the nation. David Anderson, Logan, said, “I believe they’re overpaid and underworked. You got a guy with an expired registration and three cops. Is this really what we’re paying for?

“It’s a hazard to the community,” he said, “There’s no need for more officers there [at this profile of a stop].”

Anderson is not alone and some of the residents of Cache Valley even feel misrepresented by the police department. Dallin Harris, Logan, feels that there are better things we could be spending our money on and that the heavily Mormon population causes our police to focus more on the minorities.

The result of having too many police is bored officers who harass honest citizens, Harris thinks. A good example, he said, is three years ago when he was pulled over coming into Logan out of Sardine near Macey’s. The officer said he was speeding and when Harris said that he was going a consistent speed with the other cars around him, the officer told Harris that he noticed Harris was young and wanted to prevent bad habits from setting in. In the middle of writing the ticket Harris told the officer that he hadn’t driven much because he’d just gotten back from his mission.

“He stopped writing the ticket and started telling me about his mission,” he said, and then started joking and told Harris to have a nice day.

“I think that it’s nice to have a low crime rate, but we don’t need these resources to keep this city safe,” Harris said. “I think we need to cut this budget by at least 50 percent. We just don’t need it.”

Logan city’s police chief does make less than South Jordan’s by nearly $30,000, according to Utah’s Right to Know website. Both these cities are comparable by population and by crime rate, according to the FBI’s crime rate statistics by state and by city. Although South Jordan’s police chief makes considerably more than Logan’s, their police budget in total is $5.21 million, according to their budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010. With a slightly higher population, this is around $960,000 below Logan’s, without including Logan’s police department’s federal technology grant of $2.3 million dollars, according to their expenditure budget for this fiscal year. It was not found whether South Jordan received a similar grant, but none was seen in their budget.

Davis said although he is just a street officer and that there are “brass” to handle the budgets, he believes the department does well with the budget they are provided, but they could use a larger budget for in-service training. He says it is hard to juggle keeping the department staffed, the extra money involved, and sending any officer to the in-service training that he wishes to participate in.

There are many different stories to be told, but as for Davis, he drives an older Crown Vic as his squad car, that has many issues that are not serious, but would probably be fixed in any person’s daily driver. Among a few of these are a broken window that won’t roll up, chipped paint, a seatbelt that won’t retract, and a reoccurring squeak that reminds you it’s there every bump, corner, stop, or acceleration. When talking about the different issues his car has Davis concluded by saying, “It’s OK though. I told them I don’t mind.”


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