Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141 is holding the Town Council’s feet to
the fire on the issue of salaries.
At the council’s
meeting Monday night, FOP 141 President Lt. Joe Christian warned members, in
the strongest language possible, that uncompetitive salaries will sooner
rather than later threaten public safety.
Within two and half
years, Christian said, 10 of the CPD’s 21 sworn officers will be eligible
for retirement. Those 10--including the Chief, Assistant Chief, two
lieutenants, two sergeants, and the entirety of the command staff--have an
average of 23.5 years of experience. The average years of experience of the
11 remaining sworn officers: 11 years.
muster could become even more youthful, Christian said, if any of the five
CPD officers “actively pursuing employment elsewhere” do in fact find
greener pastures, as at least three officers have done in only the last
couple of years.
The problem is the
uncompetitiveness of officers’ salaries, which Christian said not only makes
it hard to retain seasoned veterans but to attract the best qualified
candidates. A case in point: last year the Police Commission authorized an
emergency hiring process aimed at sworn officers in other departments and
graduates of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Six applied for the
position but only one actually showed up for testing.
“How pathetic and
embarrassing is the fact that only one applicant showed up,” Christian said.
“The one applicant could be the best applicant ever or could be completely
unqualified. Do the citizens of Chesterton deserve better? Do they deserve
to have a plethora of applicants apply and get the best that will be
protecting their families and property? Yes, of course they deserve the
“Only you, the Town
Council, can provide the citizens with the best possible officers in the
State of Indiana for our amazing citizens, the citizens who voted for you,”
Christian said. “You must make public safety a priority before it’s too
“We feel that the
Chesterton Police Department is nearing a crisis scenario,” Christian added.
“There may come a day in the very near future when the Chesterton Police
Department will be unable to police the Town of Chesterton properly. The
Indiana State Police or the Porter County Sheriff’s Department may need to
be called in because the Chesterton Police Department cannot attract
qualified applicants and hire new patrol officers when veteran officers
leave or retire.”
“With the recent
series of crimes that have occurred in Chesterton--murder, a gang-related
armed home invasion, and a man stalking the Chesterton High School girls
cross country team, exposing himself--it’s safe to say that Chesterton is
not what it once was,” Christian noted. “Luckily our highly trained veteran
police officers responded and solved each case.”
“We know how to
stop and prevent the crisis,” Christian concluded. “We know how to keep the
well-trained veteran police officers from leaving for greener, better-paid
pastures. We know how to recruit the best applicants for patrol officer
openings and most importantly public safety is our No. 1 priority. We are
not your enemies. We should be able to sit down as a group and solve this
problem, together. We are here to help you. You just have to allow us to
Members did not
respond to Christian’s comments.
Earlier this year,
Member Dane Lafata, D-3rd--a member of an ad hoc Salary Study Group created
on the recommendation of Member Jim Ton, R-1st--reported that the group has
received a great deal of data on the salaries which other municipalities pay
their police officers. Lafata added that the group will soon begin meeting
to discuss that information, to identify salary discrepancies, and to make
recommendations to the council on remedying them. Lafata did not give a
timeline, however, on when the group would complete its work.
Also appointed to
the Salary Study Group: Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela and Town Manager
The council was
unable to see its way clear to offer an across-the-board wage hike to
municipal employees in 2018. In lieu of raises, the council did give all
full-time employees a one-time $1,500 bonus.