Working without benefits, Highland Park police among lowest paid officers in America

Posted at 8:44 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 05:32:53-05

Only on 7, a local police force has been cut in half, putting the safety of citizens at risk.

Low pay and lack of benefits is making many officers leave the Highland Park police force.

On the streets of Highland Park, we've learned officers are only being paid a starting wage of $15/hr - without benefits.

Arthur Harrison, a citizen we spoke with, was stunned to learn about it.

"Is that all? Dang. $15 an hour, that's hard to believe. You mean to tell me the police are out here fighting bullets and whatever happens and they don't have any benefits?" says Harrison.

Another citizen, Elizabeth Gregory telling us, "Oh, that's ridiculous. I worked as a social worker and made more than that. Who wants to work here for $15, when they can go to Texas or Georgia or wherever and make twice as much?"

That's not all.

Most officers are dealing with aging equipment. Older police vehicles typically have more than 100,000 miles on them.

All of it contributes to a drastic number of cops leaving and a shortage of recruits.

Detective Brian Menge tells us, "Our numbers are down about 60% from what they were 3 years ago."

He also says some haven't had a raise in a decade. Most officers are even forced to get other jobs.

"The problem is they have to have other jobs to support their families. Substitute income so they can put clothes on their kids backs or food on their table," says Menge. "Certain people have other security jobs. Other people have other police officer jobs. Some have construction jobs or go out scrapping or whatever they can."

In comparison with other cities, Highland Park is the lowest in terms of compensation.

For instance in Bloomfield Township, police are starting their pay at $20/hr plus benefits and pension. In Clinton Township, they start at $22/hr plus benefits and pension. Same goes for Southfield. Detroit pays a starting salary of $17/hr plus benefits and retirement. State Police start at $21/hr plus health and retirement benefits. Even Guardian security starts some at $14.25/hr, plus benefits for full time workers.

Police Chief Chester Logan spent his career on the streets of Detroit before coming to Highland Park a year ago.

"Highland Park would be toward the bottom of the pay scale. You say well why do you have turnover? I think it relates directly to the level of pay we can afford to pay our police officers here" admits Logan.

Logan says with support from the Mayor, he's promoting officers to the rank of corporal and giving them 10% pay raises.

Logan adds, "We were able to get 2 new vehicles in our fleet in 2016. Certainly, we'd like to take out some of those older vehicles we have."

One sign of hope, is an average response time of 2 minutes. Crime is also trending downward from 5 homicides in 2015, to just 1 in 2016.

Yet, Menge maintains, "If we've got only a few officers on the street, their lives are in jeopardy. They are the people that have to depend on each other. It's disheartening. It is."

He says the city simply can't afford to lose anymore officers.

"We don't do it for the glory. We do it because this is the job that we love. We are losing so many good officers. Officers that have been here for years have left to go somewhere else and make more money," says Menge.

Rate of pay in other departments:

  • Highland Park: $15/hr WITHOUT benefits
  • Bloomfield Twp: $20/hr plus health benefits and pension
  • Clinton Twp: $22/hr plus health benefits and pension
  • Southfield: $22/hr plus health benefits and pension
  • Detroit: $17/hr plus health and retirement benefits
  • MSP: $21/hr plus health and retirement benefits
  • Grosse Ille: $23/hr plus health benefits and pension
  • Guardian Security: $16/hr plus health benefits