NEW HAVEN — The police chief’s $101,000 salary and department car isn’t chump change, but is it enough to lure a top-shelf candidate with national credentials to the Elm City?
Probably not, and the consultant hired to conduct a nationwide search for the next chief is suggesting city officials might need to sweeten the pot if they hope to attract the high-caliber policing professional the city is seeking.
"One of the things (the Police Executive Research Forum) informed us ... is in order to attract someone to come to New Haven, the salary is likely to have to be raised," said Alderman Alex Rhodeen, the chairman of the board’s public safety committee. "The chief of Providence makes $150,000. There’s a real cost that will come with bringing someone from outside of the department." PERF is currently advertising seven police chief jobs on its Web site and nearly every one that listed salary ranges paid more than New Haven.
Calumet City, Ill., a municipality of 40,000 people just south of Chicago, is offering $110,000 to $130,000 to lead the 93-officer department.
Commerce City, Colo., with a population of 47,000 and 88 cops, pays $107,772 to $124,715.
College Station, Texas, is offering $110,400 to $129,200 to the next chief of its 114-officer force.
Even the 63-officer department in Lancaster, Texas, starts off in the "low-$100K range."
New Haven has about 400 police officers and its chief, Francisco Ortiz Jr., is the lowest paid of any of Connecticut’s big-city chiefs.
Bridgeport Police Chief Bryan Norwood makes $119,953. While Hartford did not provide an exact salary for its chief, a police spokeswoman said the range is $130,000 to $150,000.
New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts declined to say if the city was considering increasing the salary or benefits package, commenting, "I wouldn’t want to consider that" without first addressing the Board of Aldermen.
Smuts said PERF will assemble and interview candidates and then present the city with its short list. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has the final say on who gets appointed.
Carl Goldfield, president of the Board of Aldermen, said there’s a general recognition among the lawmakers that the salary will have to be increased, especially when looking at what other cities are paying.
"It’s a reality that in order to get quality, you’ve got to pay for it. That’s the bottom line. It’s a big job, literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week on call," he said.
The city has been lucky, he said, to keep the salary at this range by promoting from within.
Now, the next chief will be asked to uproot his or her life, possibly pull children from school and maybe force a working spouse to find new employment here, he said.
Then, once that person arrives, he or she will be charged with changing the structure of a department that is "used to doing things the way it has been doing things," instilling a renewed community policing spirit and rethinking how the department does internal ethics investigation, all on top of the regular duties of a chief, Goldfield said.
"Yeah, I think people understand how big a job this is and we’re not going to get it on the cheap," he said.
The New Haven job is open to all internal and external candidates, but the city appears intent on a vigorous external search, committing to pay PERF $60,000 to spearhead the process.
And it’s not just the pay that might have to be sweetened. The city might also have to offer a severance package on the back end to increase appeal.
Stressing the importance of hiring a dynamic chief, Rhodeen said he supports the idea of increasing the salary and building an "appropriate" severance package "to attract the right candidate. "There would have to some incentive in the front end in the form of salary but anyone who is going to pick up their family and move to New Haven, they’re going to need some protection."
Chuck Wexler, the executive director from PERF, wasn’t available to speak about the search effort.