JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Driving south on Interstate 65, just across the river from Louisville, the digital billboard is hard to miss. The advertisement asks Louisville Metro Police officers and others here to join the Fort Wayne Police Department. It also seeks new recruits from the Louisville area.
According to Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena with the Fort Wayne Police Department, which is three and a half hours north of Louisville, the billboard was strategically placed in the Louisville area and other municipalities across the country as the department seeks to grow.
"We know there's a lot of cities where a lot of officers are unhappy, given the political climate of everything, so we're really reaching out to those officers in those areas who might want better pay," said Rosales-Scatena.
Compared to LMPD, Fort Wayne's pay is better. According to online records, LMPD pays new officers a base starting salary of $39,186 compared to $51,680 at Fort Wayne.
A similar pitch to poach LMPD officers was made earlier this year by officers from a department outside Richmond, Virginia, which also pays better.
Ryan Nichols, the president of LMPD's union, says so far this year, the department has lost 155 officers: while 63 were to retirement, 92 resigned, presumably many for work at other departments.
"Our manpower situation within LMPD is very dire," said Nichols in an interview last week.
Recruiting is getting harder too, he says.
"Out of a possible 48 recruits in that class, they're at 15. I would say zero is a very real possibility, unfortunately," said Nichols.
That's why Nichols says it's pivotal for the city to enact this new contract for LMPD, which will increase officers' starting pay.
However, the fate of that contract is uncertain. Metro Council would traditionally vote on it. But after some Metro Council members said they won't vote for it until it includes more reforms, the FOP argued it legally doesn't need council's approval at all to be implemented.
Until it is implemented, Nichols says Fort Wayne and others will keep poaching Louisville's best.
"I'm not saying those other officers won't do a great job or don't try and learn and even blossom into great officers, but why would we limit the number of great officers we should have," said Nichols.
Council President David James, D-6, says the county attorney's office is still figuring out whether or not the new contract needs Metro Council's approval.
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