The city of Washougal has awarded its police officers with a salary increase and annual retention bonuses as part of its continuing efforts to recruit and retain quality employees.
The Washougal City Council approved a 2.5 percent pay hike for Washougal Police Department officers during its Nov. 7 meeting.
“We have actually been relatively successful in attracting candidates that want to come here, whether they’re entry level or lateral (transfers), so we feel good about that,” City Manager David Scott told the Post-Record. “However, it has become a more challenging job market, and so that’s why we wanted to update our analysis to make sure that we were competitive.”
The city completed a salary study earlier this year and concluded that all sergeants and detectives should receive a 2.5 percent salary increase, which went into effect Nov. 6, according to a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Washougal Police Officers Union.
“We made changes to our policies that have to do with which cities we consider to be our ‘comparable cities’ when we do a salary study, and where we want to be positioned with respect to the median of the salaries with those comparable cities,” Scott said. “We adjusted our policy to make sure that the cities we were looking at are comparable to us and were located with some proximity to major urban centers. We eliminated a handful of communities up and down the west side of Washington that were more rural.”
The city compiled a list of 18 cities in Western Washington with a police department, plus-or-minus 50 percent of Washougal’s population, and plus-or-minus 50 percent of Washougal’s assessed value per capita, and are 50 miles or fewer from an urban area with a population of at least 100,000 people.
“And the other (criteria we looked at) was how we want to be positioned with respect to the median,” Scott said. “We used to say that we would be comfortable anywhere from 95 percent to 105 percent of the median. And at least for now, with this change, we want to make sure we’re at least 100 percent of the median. The median from this analysis for 2022 is $7,761 per month base salary for a top-step police officer.”
Previously, a Washougal Police Department patrol officer earned between $5,880.99 to $7,576 per month, and a sergeant earned between $8,516.36 and $8,77.12 per month. Now, a patrol officer earns between $6,028.01 and $7,765.91 per month, and a sergeant earns between $8,729.27 and $8,990.40 per month.
“We’re right at the median of our comparable communities,” Scott said. “We feel that we’re competitive, but there are some larger organizations in the Portland metro area that we just can’t compete with in terms of salaries. That’s a challenge in all of our positions, and we’re not the only small community that’s challenged by that.”
The city has also implemented a retention bonus of $2,500 per year for all officers employed as of Nov. 7, for three years beginning that month.
“I think there’s a lot of different dynamics going on around that career,” said Scott, who added that the Washougal Police Department is currently “very close” to being fully staffed. “Obviously, it’s been in the news a lot over the last couple of years or so, and some of that might be challenging for individuals who are considering a career in police.
“I will say that the council and the Washougal community is very supportive of our police department, and our police department does a great job, and we’re proud of our officers. I think that context is helpful for us.”