Raleigh police and firefighters upset over lack of pay

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh police officers and firefighters are teaming up to take concerns over their pay to City Council.

Hundreds of officers and firefighters are expected to attend next Tuesday night’s budget hearing where they’ll lay out concerns over the lack of pay and ask councilors for raises.

Rick Armstrong, vice president of Teamsters Local 391, says the low pay makes it tough to recruit and retain good police officers.

“Many of our officers are struggling,” said Armstrong. ”There are a lot of police officers working right now that are on welfare, collecting food stamps. It’s a serious concern for us that a police officer can barely make it by in the city he or she is protecting.”

Armstrong says some officers have left the Raleigh Police Department ($34,281/starting salary) to go to other agencies in Wake County that pay more. He says officers have taken jobs at local agencies such as Holly Springs Police Department ($41,689/starting salary), Cary Police Department ($40,456/starting salary) and Wake Forest Police Department ($38,309/starting salary).

Chris Ferrell, a Raleigh Firefighter, says the pay is so low for firefighters; many of his colleagues have had to take part-time jobs.

“Without any significant raises or consistent raises in the past eight years that I’ve been here, it’s becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet,” said Ferrell. “We’re working 56 hours a week and to leave that job and go to another one…that’s just taking more and more time away from our families.”

Police officers and firefighters say they have received raises the past few years, but the rising cost of health insurance have offset most of those pay increases.

“Raleigh is a city that has the best of almost everything, but when it comes to employee pay they’re nowhere near the top,” said Keith Wilder, President of the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association. “It’s not a matter of not loving the job or loving the city we work for, it’s a matter of economics, not being able to provide for your family.”

The city declined CBS North Carolina’s request for an interview, but issued the following statement:

“Public safety will always be a top priority for the City of Raleigh. This year the recommended budget includes up to a 3.5 percent increase in salary for all employees. We are actively engaged in a data-driven compensation study that will look to address any issues in our pay system for our Police Department and the other City departments that serve our growing community.”

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