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Roanoke advances raise for police, one day after downtown shooting

The raises had been in the works for months, part of the city’s latest budget
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 10:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Monday, City Council was unanimous, all members voting in favor of giving Roanoke City police officers, and other first reponders, a raise. The raises are part of the city’s planned 2021-22 budget, which has been under development for months.

“This pay plan incorporates what is the probably most substantial increase that we’ve been able to begin,” said City Manager Bob Cowell. “And it’s a beginning because it’s going to unfold over the next couple of years, relative to our community safety employees as well. So this s a significant step for addressing compensation for fire, police and EMS.”

When the raise is in place, police personnel will make at least 3% more a year - depending on where they fall on the new salary scale.

The vote came just a day after a shooting in downtown Roanoke that injured two people. The shooting didn’t prompt the raise, but city leaders did say it shows why keeping and attracting talented law enforcement officers is important.

“I’ve had nothing but questions from Sunday until about 10 minutes ‘til I came in here regarding that and what we’re doing for our police officers,” said Mayor Sherman Lea.

Complaints about pay for Roanoke City officers have gone back years, with the city’s police association raising concerns since at least 2019.

Association President Christopher Levering said at the time, “We want to be paid as we feel is equitable,” pointing out that officers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Blacksburg all had a higher average salary than in Roanoke.

The Association’s new president, Joel Patrick, declined to comment on the raise Monday, citing remaining unknowns with the raises.

The raises are also not without criticism. Social justice groups, including No Justice, No Peace, have criticized the move. Monday, the group’s leader Tatiana Durant wrote the city “should be investing in alternative forms of public safety that focus on community needs and understanding rather than punishment and incarceration.”

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