BS 022217 Ogden Police Prses Conference 02-1

Ogden City Police Chief Randy Watt spoke during a press conference on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, at the Francom Public Safety Center in Ogden. Ogden police were involved in the shooting of Bartolo Justice Sambrano, 25, at the Junction parking garage the night before.

OGDEN — It can be tough to get and keep good help.

Mindful of that — and worried about Salt Lake City Police Department’s plans to hire 50 more officers — the Ogden City Council unanimously approved pay raises Tuesday for certain Ogden police officers. The aim is to prevent or minimize loss of officers here to other departments.

“They’re stealing us blind,” Police Chief Randy Watt said after Tuesday’s action, referencing losses of officers to Salt Lake City-area law enforcement agencies.

The city council approved big increases in funding for police and firefighter wages, among other things, in 2016.

RELATED: Ogden City Council unanimously approves 31 percent property tax increase

Watt didn’t cite any recent departures stemming from Salt Lake City’s plans to boost police numbers by 50, but said that in the past 2 1/2 years, the department here has lost 27 officers to other agencies. Sixteen of those went to the Salt Lake City Police Department.

The hikes in differential pay, as it’s called, are meant “to slow the bleeding,” Watt said. The department will be able to tap money meant for posts that are now unfilled, helping prevent the need for a new funding appropriation.

Per the increases, to take effect in the next pay period, Ogden officers who work afternoon shifts, starting between noon and 6 p.m., will get 2.5 percent pay hikes and those working late shifts, starting after 6 p.m., will get 5 percent increases. For police officers, base annual pay, not including the differential increases, ranges from around $38,700 per year to $60,700, depending on experience level, according to a city memo on the matter.

Per another change, approved administratively, officers will also receive annual bonuses based on education level — $1,000 more if they have an associate’s degree, $2,000 more if they have a bachelor’s degree and $3,000 more for a master’s degree, according to Watt.

“This is a beginning,” Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said. “We’re going to have to up our game even more to hold on to them.”

The Ogden Police Department is fully staffed at 143 sworn officers and the department currently has around 140. If numbers were to drop, the department would still respond as it currently does to the most serious of incidents, according to Watt, but responses to some less serious incidents might be curtailed.

Departments in the Salt Lake City area recruit heavily around the state, not just Ogden, Watt said. A memo from city staffers, though, noted the draw of Ogden officers for Salt Lake City recruiters because of the “excellent training” they receive and the reporting software used here is the same as in Salt Lake City.

Apart from the 50 officers to be hired by the Salt Lake City PD, Watt said the Utah Highway Patrol plans to hire 100 new officers. He’s also heard the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake and the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office plan to hire, adding to the pressure.

The planned Salt Lake City PD hires, to be on board by November, will boost department staffing to just over 500, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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