Mayor to propose bonus for ‘local’ FPD hires

Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 10:18 AM AKST|Updated: Nov. 6, 2023 at 10:33 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - City of Fairbanks Mayor David Pruhs is cooking up new plans for police recruitment.

The mayor told Newscenter Fairbanks he intends to introduce an ordinance Monday aimed at drumming up local applicants for the long understaffed Fairbanks Police Department (FPD).

His proposed ordinance would join existing incentives by adding another hiring bonus to the mix and this time for first-time officers.

“If this can help us get one or two more police officers, it’s well worth it,” Pruhs said, referring to the proposed bonus. “So I thought, ‘What would be an appropriate amount to offer as a hiring bonus for someone local?”

The mayor’s answer: “A $20,000 bonus, that’s what we’re going to do ... if the city council approves it. But I noticed a gap, I wanted to fill the gap, and treat any local applicants very well.”

Pruhs said this proposal rounds out the city’s recruitment and retention efforts, which already provide a bonus for officers heading to FPD from different agencies.

That incentive, adopted in June with unanimous approval from the council, created a $60,000 sign-on bonus to incentivize so-called lateral hires, the city paying half of that total in the first check after a new officer completes field training.

Later the same month, an again unanimous council solidified a supplemental retirement plan and a permanent life insurance, greenlighting $10,000 annual payments to all qualified, full-time FPD officers. The council awarded the contract for that plan via an Oct. 23 resolution to National Life Group/Life Insurance Company of the Southwest.

A final measure the council took this summer set sights on retention, with a July ordinance bumping wages for all commissioned officers by $4 per hour, putting the base rate for Fairbanks police at $38 per hour. That passed in another resounding vote in favor, with Council Member Jerry Cleworth as the lone no in a 5-1 vote.

To include a bonus for first-time officers is the next step for Pruhs, who said the staffing situation at FPD sits among the city’s most pressing challenges.

Under his proposal, Pruhs explained that qualifying new hires must put in some time before receiving the money.

“They would have to complete the training, and then they would have to complete a specific amount of time,” he said, adding, “and then we give it to them after approximately one year.”

That specific amount of time is a three-year commitment, according to the proposed ordinance.

Pruhs’ plan runs parallel to comments from the department’s Chief of Police, Ron Dupee, who said in a Nov. 1 interview that the department hopes to get more applicants living in the area.

“With the additional benefits that the city council provided for the police department, we’re hoping that this stirs interest within the community ... to join the Fairbanks Police Department and make it a career-long goal to be a police officer within their own community,” Dupee said.

As for where Pruhs’ proposal falls in the budget lines, he said the costs are accounted for due to “unexpended expenses,” or in other words, funds that weren’t spent on costs the city had anticipated.

“We’re taking savings, and putting it into officer recruitment,” he said.

The council will meet for budget talks Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 a.m. The ordinance goes up for discussion at a 7 a.m. Tuesday work session.