The Camden City Council voted to approve a pay raise for sworn Camden Police Department officers and dispatchers at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.
Camden Police Chief Bo Woody had previously appeared before the council asking for raises to stop what he described as attrition and loss of manpower to other departments in the area.
At a workshop last month, Woody presented his case by showing a local news article that stated deputies in Columbia County will now have a base starting pay of $50,000.
"Magnolia's done it. Now this is Columbia County... And that's what we're competing here for, the base salary at $50,000," Woody said.
In March, Woody asked the Council for a pay raise for his officers and dispatchers, citing the disparity between the CPD's salaries and those of other nearby agencies.
"We did a base salary comparison with the other cities in this area and I did it with Little Rock, Pine Bluff, but I'm going to leave those off there. I'm just going to compare it to Magnolia, El Dorado, Hope and Ouachita County. We are $3 lower across the board for our dispatchers. We're paying those girls $12.84 an hour. Ouachita County Sheriff's Department's paying their girls $15.87. Now that's $3 difference. The deputy over there starts out at $20.15 and we're paying our officers $17.79," he said.
Under the resolution passed Tuesday, eight dispatchers will receive a $3 per hour raise and 23 sworn officers will receive a $2 base pay raise.
Alderman Ebony Gulley brought attention to a 3 and a half cent public safety tax passed in 2007 in Camden that was to be used to supplement police and fire salaries,
"Because it's a limited purpose tax, it can only be spent for specific reasons. Number one, to supplement the pay scale for the Camden Police Department and the Camden Fire Department, making those agencies competitive in the state and region. Why don't we have enough money in that tax fund to do what this ordinance does?" she asked.
"This says, 'The public safety sales and use tax shall be used to supplement' -- not replace -- 'the fire and police department,' but as Chief Woody has been telling us... I'm seeing the light. We are replacing their budget," she said.
Gulley also introduced an amendment to the resolution for a $2 pay raise for civilian clerical workers, but it died on the floor for lack of a second.
The alderman voted in favor of the resolution with seven affirmatives and Gulley abstaining.