SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — Members of the San Angelo City Council and San Angelo Police Officers Coalition gathered at City Hall in the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 15, in an effort to improve police pay in town after concerns over a potential mass departure of officers gripped the community.

The Meet & Confer meeting

The Nov. 15 meeting was a “Meet & Confer,” a type of meeting that the SAPOC — unlike other agencies within San Angelo — is capable of holding with the City.

During the meeting, three potential payment plans were discussed: a $1.2 million over nine months plan, a $1.2 million over 12 months plan and a $1.5 million over 15 months plan. The amounts mentioned in these plans do not include stipends needed to maintain competitive wages for certain officers who still need to complete certifications.

“Realistically, we’re thinking long-term,” Assistant City Manager Michael Dane said. “When we get this finalized, they’re going to need to make more than what they make now. Why take a step backward and have to take an extra step forward?”

Once selected and enacted, funds allocated by the City for the chosen plan would be distributed across the department’s officers, giving most SAPD positions a salary increase ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. The plan would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

“I just want to thank you all again for working with us and continuing to work with us in this despite the potential crisis within our police department, I really do appreciate the effort,” SAPOC President Noel Anderson said to the City staff members present at the meeting. “I know you all have been working behind the scenes just as hard as we have.”

No decision has been made at this time. However, official decisions are pending from the City Council, which are said to come no later than the second week of December. The City and SAPOC will continue to hold meetings throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024 to discuss matters further.

A look back

The possibility of a mass departure first reached the public’s attention midway through October 2023, when former San Angelo Police Department public information officer Tracy Piatt-Fox began speaking out after an alleged 21 officers told her they were actively seeking employment elsewhere, not including the “40 plus that can punch out at any time.”

Piatt-Fox cited low pay, a lack of benefits and unsupportive leadership as being a few of the driving factors behind the potential exodus.

Several SAPD officers would later reach out anonymously to speak about the issues, with some also stating that they are being “overworked” and “underappreciated” in a manner that does not reflect their current pay. Some officers also anonymously wrote open letters to the public, with many of the letters detailing their personal struggles with pay issues, airing their concerns about the current administration within the police department and stating that these problems have been going on for years now.

In response, the City released a statement to address some of the concerns being presented by the community. It stated that the City and the SAPOC have held multiple meetings to discuss the matter and promised to “continue to work with the San Angelo Police Officers Coalition to develop a solution that is fiscally possible and more comparable to other communities.”

In its response, the City said that though it had given each officer in the SAPD a raise in 2023, it was admittedly not enough “to keep up with the salary needs for police officers.” The City also claimed that police shortages felt across the nation have forced law enforcement agencies to compete against each other for a shrinking pool of officers, causing salaries to rise rapidly.

Additionally, the City cited that the State of Texas’ 3.5% limitation on increases in property tax revenues for existing valuations has hampered its ability to adequately pay officers due to a $5.66 million decrease in revenue caused by the limit. The City is capable of increasing property taxes above the 3.5% limitation, but an election would be required to do so.

However, many SAPD members have reportedly planned their departure for December 2023, raising concerns within the community about whether any actions taken will be quick enough to retain the officers.