Flint, MI– The Flint City Council is considering allocating half a million dollars in federal funding for financial incentives to newly hired police officers in hopes of solving a “personnel emergency.” 

Flint Police Chief Terrence Green told the council the department was experiencing trouble with recruitment and morale during the finance committee meeting on March 9. 

“Right now, the City of Flint Police Department is in a personnel emergency when it comes to police officers. Our officers currently right now are overworked, underpaid, and they’ve been burned out,” Green said. “It’s affecting their morale. This is a reason why we have delayed response times. Officers are going from call to call. They have very little unobligated time.”

The administration’s resolution proposes allocating $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.

He also told the council this would apply to 29 recently hired officers, as well as the vacant positions that will be filled. He suspects the department will be better able to recruit officers with these financial incentives. 

“Most of my complaints that come from the community members that feel we do not have enough officers, and we don’t. The community’s demanding it. The officers are demanding that we need more officers,” Green said. “But this resolution can solve that issue most definitely. With this resolution and this funding. … It’s projected we will fill the majority of our vacant positions by the end of April.”

Green said the department has had several retirements within the last year and could have an additional 10% leave this summer, including upper command staff, captains, and lieutenants. 

“This resolution would give us a competitive edge. It would make us a lot more attractive to qualified candidates. And also it would be an incentive to come work for a police department that has a very high call volume,” Green said.

He told the council he compared the Mt. Morris Township Police Department with Flint’s and found that Flint officers responded to more than twice the calls in 2021.

According to Green, Flint officers responded to 58,000 calls to 911 last year. Mt. Morris officers responded to 21,000 calls, he said. 

While Flint officers had more calls for service, they are getting lower wages and benefits in comparison, Green said. He told the council the starting wage for a Flint police officer is $19.43 per hour, while Mt. Morris pays $20.75. Additionally, he said Mt. Morris offers better benefits for officers. 

In addition to these financial incentives recruiting more officers, Green told the council that this would help the department “do their job properly.”

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said there was a shooting in her ward this week, and she saw officers respond but not take the time to look at camera footage from neighboring homes. She asked Green if the financial incentives would help in this scenario, and he said “absolutely.”

“Our officers are tied up on calls. They run from call to call. They don’t have the time and we don’t have the personnel for them to properly investigate any crime, calls for service,” Green said. 

So far this year, the city of Flint has had 11 homicides, Green said, including a double homicide on March 7. He said there have also been 30-40 non-fatal shootings this year.

“Monday night with a double homicide, my entire night shift was tied up. They ran over into the morning for the day shift,” Green said. Overtime is mandatory for officers, he said, and some officers end up working shifts for up to 18 hours.

“Our senior officers, younger officers, they’re being burned out. I can see it in their morale. … If we don’t improve our personnel, it’s definitely going to start to affect their work,” Green said.

Council President Eric Mays said he would support this resolution but wanted to see a more significant crime prevention package spending “four to ten million dollars” on public safety with the ARPA funds. 

“I believe that I want to see people when they dial 911, I don’t want 911 telling them, ‘We’re tied up on a shooting,’ and then it’s taking three, four, five, six hours for police to get there,” Mays said.

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

Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder asked Green if there would be employees receiving both premium pay and the newly proposed financial incentives, but Green said it was his understanding that the 29 recently hired officers did not qualify for premium pay. 

The council voted 5-1 to move this resolution to their regular council meeting on Monday, March 14. Mays, Burns, Councilwoman Ladel Lewis, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, and Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer voted yes to send this to council. Herkenroder was the lone vote no. 

“It’s irresponsible to start appropriating money without having the priorities or the plan,” Herkenroder said earlier in the meeting about the resolutions related to ARPA funds. “So I will end by saying I will not vote to spend a single cent of ARPA dollars until we have that plan on how that money will be spent.” 

By the time the council voted, it was after midnight and Councilman Quincy Murphy, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing 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...