Time to Admit It
Shreveport, we have a problem!
The quality of life of every citizen of Shreveport must be a top priority for local government officials. Public safety is a crucial responsibility of all elected representatives of the people, including the mayor and the city council. The expectation of the safety and the well-being of every citizen should be at the top of the list when we speak of our role as leaders. This starts with the recruitment, training and retention of the best and brightest public safety personnel available. We can never grow or reach our potential as a city if our citizens do not feel safe or well taken care of.
In Shreveport, a storm has been brewing for over a decade in relation to public safety. Now the F-5 storm is on top of us, tearing away the very fabric of our community in its path. Several other city leaders and I have been sounding an alarm for the last two years, that the safety of our city is in jeopardy. I have met, I have talked, I have begged, to no avail. My begging appears to fall on deaf ears. Shreveport police officers and firefighters have got to be paid a living wage; the success and growth of Shreveport depends on this. The fact is, our brave police officers and firefighters are some of the lowest paid in the region, starting pay is close to poverty level, and many must work several jobs just to make ends meet. Some officers are working 16- to 20-hour days in order to put food on the table. Currently, the city of Shreveport is hemorrhaging public safety personnel at an alarming rate, and the reason is crystal clear: pay. Currently, the Shreveport Police Department is down over 91 officers, and the Shreveport Fire Department is down over 51 firefighters. Officers and firefighters are resigning and moving on to greener pastures at an alarming rate, and who can blame them? It goes back to the quality of life issue I discussed earlier. My concern is that at some point, this will begin to impact the level of service both departments will be able to deliver to our citizens. In all honesty, with our increase in violent crime recently, maybe the impact of losing so many quality officers is already taking a toll on our fair city and the safety of the citizens.
The Shreveport Police Department and Shreveport Fire Department have become a training ground for many other departments that offer better pay, benefits, equipment and working conditions. Many of our men and women have left for Texas departments. The Texas departments, most in the Metroplex area, pay in some cases $20,000 to $30,000 above our current starting pay. Without putting the Texas connection into the equation, a larger and more disturbing issue is that some personnel are leaving for departments within a 60-mile radius of Shreveport.
Both police and fire personnel have left in recent months for local fire districts, sheriff’s offices and other smaller, wellfunded departments. Perfect example:
Our sister city, just across the Texas Street Bridge, Bossier City, has responsibly raised the pay for police and fire over the past few years, and aggressively continues to do so. Starting pay for Bossier City police officers and firefighters is over $7,000 per year higher than their brothers and sisters across the Red River. That may not seem like much, but when Shreveport is starting officers and firefighters out at $32,184 per year, $583 per month is huge and could relate to food for a family in many cases.
At the July 28 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Fuller announced she would be presenting a new pay plan to increase the pay of our police officers. This is a crucial first start, and I am committed to seeing that occur and helping her in any way. I myself have been working on a similar plan for our brave and hardworking firefighters. Shreveport’s future depends on this! The only way to have top-notch departments is to retain and recruit the best and brightest. We cannot continue to lose employees at such an alarming rate. The old saying, you get what you pay for, is so true! I implore every member of the Shreveport City Council as well as Mayor Perkins to make this happen! The future and safety of our city is at stake.
Grayson S. Boucher is member of the Shreveport City Council and represents District D (Southeast Shreveport). He is chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee. Grayson has been a real estate broker and appraiser for over 20 years, serving Northwest Louisiana. He also served as fire chief of Caddo Fire District 5 for 10 years and has over 23 years of service as a firefighter/EMT. Grayson’s wife, Heather, has been in law enforcement for over 10 years and is currently a detective with a local sheriff’s office.