Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted to allocate half a million dollars in federal funding for financial incentives to newly hired police officers in hopes of solving a “staffing crisis.”

Police Chief Terence Green told the council on March 15 that nine officers would be eligible to retire by July, and just last week, a sergeant put in his two-week notice to leave for another department. 

“We’re in a staffing crisis with officers, and they deserve better,” he said. 

After hearing from Green, the council voted 5-1 to approve a resolution to allocate $500,000 of the American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide “incentives” to qualifying officers. 

Last year, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million in ARPA funding as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. 

While the money is COVID-19-related, the city can use it to tackle other issues, including public safety, as officials explained at a previous meeting.

This resolution would provide $7,500 incentives for “newly hired Flint Police Department certified officers and Flint Fire Department certified fire suppression personnel” and $5,000 for “newly hired recruits from the police and fire academies.” Green said officers would have to wait “three to five years” to get the money.

“This resolution allows us a competitive edge,” Green said. “A lot more attractive than other police departments that have a 50% less workload in the city of Flint.”

Having more officers would lighten the load for current officers experiencing burnout, Green said. 

“They don’t complain, but I can see they’re being burned out,” Green said. “They’re involved in witnessing horrific crimes. … This plays with their mental health also. So being understaffed just adds to that.”

Green said more officers is something community members repeatedly tell him they would like to see. 

“Every community member meeting that I have attended, the community members have complained about our staffing levels, response times, not receiving the officer in a reasonable amount of time,” Green said. “The community deserves better. The men and women in the department deserve better. … We’re losing officers every day. If not physically, mentally, we’re losing them.”

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she thought having more officers would increase their visibility and help reduce crime. 

“I’ve seen videos where they’re shooting at one o’clock in the afternoon. Open shooting with AK-47s. It’s real, and it happens, and it’s a problem,” Burns said. “Why? Because they know we don’t have enough officers. So they are just lawless.”

Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder was the lone vote against this resolution, but not because she didn’t support giving financial incentives to officers. 

“I don’t think anybody up here is denying the importance of public safety,” Herkenroder said. “It is just a matter of the process and making sure that there has been a plan that has been well identified by both the administration and the council, along with the public input about how much money we could put into the public safety bucket.”

Additionally, Herkenroder had questions about whether or not there would be an overlap of premium pay and these financial incentives for officers. 

On Feb. 14, the council approved a resolution giving premium pay to qualifying Flint Police Department sworn officers, Flint Fire Department certified fire suppression personnel, and qualifying public safety civilian support personnel.

Police and fire department employees will receive an additional $5 per hour worked between June 14, 2020, through June 12, 2021, not to exceed the maximum of $10,400. The public safety civilian support personnel would receive an additional $2.50 per hour worked between the same dates, not to exceed $5,200. 

The administration estimated that this would amount to $1,447,379 for 163 public safety employees. 

For the new financial incentives resolution, Green told the council those incentives would apply to 29 recently hired officers, as well as the vacant positions that will be filled.

Of those 29 officers, Green said 18 of them did not qualify for premium pay under the previous resolution due to the time they were hired. Another seven of the 29 officers would qualify for premium pay, but only a small portion of it, he said, again due to the date they were hired.

Herkenroder said she wasn’t comfortable approving the resolution until she had an official breakdown of the different overlaps. 

“I want to make sure we get everybody paid. We just make sure that we have a plan to do that,” Herkenroder said.

Councilman Quincy Murphy said he understood the desire to have a full plan, but said that it doesn’t “take a rocket scientist to know we need public safety.” 

“We hear the residents talk about safety being one of the priorities,” Murphy said. “$500,000 is not even enough to put in what we need to give him with the necessary equipment and resources. There’s just some things we need to do because it’s just the right thing to do.”

Council President Eric Mays, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer, Burns, and Murphy voted to approve the resolution. Herkenroder voted against the resolution. At this point in the meeting, it was about 2 a.m. and Councilwoman Eva Worthing, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Councilwoman Ladel Lewis had left the meeting.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...