Pay raise for officers first step in department upgrades

DEWEY BEACH, Del. – Dewey Beach commissioners voted unanimously Monday to increase the salaries for all of their police officers in an effort to improve their ability to retain and recruit. This is just one step for the town as they try to bring their department into the 21st century.

About $25,000 in additional salary for Dewey Beach officers has been approved, with those funds coming from a budget surplus in 2018. These salary increases come following a report done outlining the department’s strengths and weaknesses.

But the additional pay for officers is just step one.

The report also encourages the town to add more officers as the town continues to evolve.

“It’s not just a negative police story that brings out the need for first class police department, but it’s sometimes those family fun things that we need to make sure we have the extra coverage for,” said Mayor TJ Redefer.

Equipment improvements, such as recorded dispatch line, radios, even holding cells, were mentioned as items needed for the department in the future.

“When they’re out and about, that we have radios that work properly, and all the systems that go into making a 21st century police department,” Redefer said.

Adding a full time officer and cruiser can cost north of six figures, a pretty penny for a town operating on a $3.3 million budget for the year. So the question has to be asked, where would the additional funds come from.

“Whether we’re going to propose to adjust fees, are we going to have look at new revenue streams. But whatever we do, we have to pick a stable source of revenue to fund the police department,” said town manager Scott Koenig.

And the public may have a say in what funds the town uses for these upgrades.

“We have to really gauge what’s the appetite of the residents and property owners to how they would like to pay for this. Because we don’t have specifically dedicated revenues for public safety right now,” Koenig said.

The plan is to begin the process of finding these funds when they begin work on their next fiscal year budget.

Those pay increases will kick in for full time officers this coming pay period. Part time officers will see their raises in the near future, and seasonal officers will see a raise next year.

The town will begin discussing adding a recording dispatch line at next week’s meeting. They will also begin talks about adding new vehicles in the coming months.

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