Dickinson Police Dept. wants officers to stay: Half the force from MinnesotaThe Dickinson Police Department is hoping a change in the way officers are paid will attract more married personnel and help the single ones put down roots.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson Police Department is hoping a change in the way officers are paid will attract more married personnel and help the single ones put down roots.
DPD Officer John Spielman, 25, moved to Dickinson three-and-a-half months ago and could see himself staying if more development comes and housing prices drop.
In an effort to bring experienced officers who are more likely to put down roots in the community, Dickinson will start offering $2 per hour premium pay for non-exempt employees, starting immediately. As of Wednesday, the city was advertising the extra $2 on job postings on its website.
The Dickinson City Commission at a special meeting Dec. 27 approved the premium pay.
“The $2 skill-based pay will represent about a $4,000 increase and kind of catch us up or put us at least in the ballpark with the other public entities,” City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. “It’s a way to compensate our employees in a period of tremendous growth.”
A study conducted by DPD determined Dickinson officers were paid the least of similar communities in the Oil Patch, he said. Williston offers a housing stipend of up to $550 per month.
DPD figured in a 3 percent cost-of-living increase previously in the 2013 budget.
“We’ve hired a lot of people from out of state,” Kessel said. “The housing market and the economy as it gets better nationwide, the concern is that these folks will then return to where they came from, and in some cases that’s not that far away.”
About half the police force is comprised of individuals from neighboring Minnesota, DPD Chief Dustin Dassinger said.
“It’s an easy transition back to Minnesota from North Dakota,” Kessel said.
The job openings in the booming Oil Patch are what drew Spielman to Dickinson.
“I grew up in a suburb of the (Twin Cities) and so growing up it seemed like where I was living the town was growing really fast. Kind of like a boom town, in a way,” he said of his hometown, Hugo, Minn. “When the housing crash came … it really appealed to me that people were coming in droves to North Dakota and were taking a lot of these small towns that no one had heard of and making them big cities.”
Although Spielman doesn’t have a plan, development and lower home prices could persuade him to make Dickinson his home.
“I’m looking forward to the prices of housing to drop a little bit,” he said. “I’m excited to see what comes to Dickinson. You hear of stuff coming into town like Target and new opportunities.”
Commissioner Shirley Dukart was concerned with the salary, even with the increases.
“Do you think that’s enough for a family of four?” she asked. “It may be for a single police officer.”
It has been tough to attract married officers, Dassinger said.
“It’s much easier for a single person to pick up and move back (than it is for) a married person with children that are invested in the community,” he said.
Those with experience start at a higher wage than those coming to the force with no experience, Dassinger said. DPD uses three steps for starting wages, with inexperienced officers starting at about $45,000 per year with benefits.
The $2 skill-based increase would begin after the officer is a licensed North Dakota peace officer.
DPD has an annual budget of about $5 million.
The commission also approved an additional 2 percent increase in the base pay for positions the city is having the hardest time filling, including street maintenance, communications specialists and solid waste laborers. This is in addition to what was originally budgeted.