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Orange Park police want raises from Town Council

Posted 12/7/23

ORANGE PARK – Officers with the Orange Park Police Department passionately voiced their concerns about their salaries to the Town Council during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Mayor Randy Anderson …

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Orange Park police want raises from Town Council


Posted

ORANGE PARK – Officers with the Orange Park Police Department passionately voiced their concerns about their salaries to the Town Council during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Mayor Randy Anderson said he and his colleagues on the council are taking the necessary steps to increase their salaries to retain current officers and dispatchers and attract new hires.
The town lags behind other agencies in surrounding municipalities and counties in Northeast Florida for starting pay, Cpl. Samantha Frehulfer said. She said the $42,500 base pay is the lowest rate in Clay County.
The Clay County Sherriff’s Office recently raised its starting pay to $51,000 and the Florida Highway Patrol is at $50,000, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement starts at $52,000) and agencies in St. Johns County have a base between $50,000 and $53,000, she said.
“We now make $8,500 less per year in starting pay. What I hope to show you is that we are hurting so much. So much so no one is asking how to get hired here. In fact, most people stop looking (at Orange Park) when hearing the starting salary (compared) to other agencies in the area,” Frehulfer said.
Sgt. Joel Grant is a 23-year law enforcement veteran who’s worked with the town police department for more than 18 years.
He was initially attracted to the town because it offered among the best salaries and pensions in the area. Now, that’s no longer the case, he said.
“For the first time in my career, I am concerned about the future and viability of the agency,” Grant said.
He said pay is low, and officers must contribute a higher rate to their pension fund compared to other departments.

“The current working conditions have suffered at our agency. Morale is the lowest I’ve ever seen. Officers are (not only) working overtime, but are overworked and are working off duty to provide the town with the same level of services as if we were fully staffed,” Grant said.
Det. Greg Swim has worked in several roles at the department in 10 years. Swim gave a fiery speech about the department’s unwavering dedication to serving the town. But he also had a warning.
“We are running short squads just to answer calls for service, and that puts us (and residents) at risk. I’ve never seen anything like this in my professional career. There must be action, and that’s why we’re here today,” he said.
Seven officers resigned or retired this year, which makes up about 27% of the staff, Swim said. But the problem goes beyond patrol, spreading toward emergency communications officers. The first person to pick up the phone in an emergency, the dispatchers are essential in relaying critical information to officers.

Frehulfer said the staff is currently short by three officers. Other losses could be catastrophic.
“If we do not raise our starting pay to be equatable to surrounding agencies, we will undoubtedly lose more great people. Eventually, we won’t have enough officers to cover these streets safely, and we won’t be able to (properly) protect the citizens of Orange Park,” she said.
Bargaining began 30 days ago. The council has been able to look at the details twice, Anderson said.
“We know we have the best police department in Clay County. The (town) council, we do hear you, and we are going to take action. We will take care of you,” he said.

Jeff Yager, President of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Orange Park Lodge No. 144, updated the ongoing negotiations.

“We’re waiting for them to respond. We have no idea when they will get back. We trust the process and have a good relationship with the town,” he said.