WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – At the most recent Wilmington City Council meeting, several city police officers and firefighters rallied outside of the meeting, protesting for better pay.
Wilmington Police Officer Thomas Tilmon spoke before council about the need for better department pay in order to retain veteran officers.
On Monday morning, Wilmington City Council continued its budget planning and once again, the subject of employee pay was discussed by council and members of city staff.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo appeared visually frustrated during the conversation.
"In our last city council meeting, there was a presentation made by some police officers that indicated that we had a pretty high turnover rate and when I asked about that after the meeting on the following day, to my surprise we have the lowest turnover rate in public safety of all the city departments," Saffo explained.
The mayor said that employee pay has already been deemed one of the city council's top concerns on multiple occasions.
"We've talked about this in the state of the city address and we've also talked this over at the last couple of budget meetings that this is going to be our number one priority," Saffo said.
"I don't know if they were trying to reiterate that we need more pay. We understood that. We've heard that."
After the meeting, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said this has been a difficult situation that all parties are working to resolve.
"I understand they're frustrated. They're trying to do something here. I understand both sides are frustrated," Evangelous explained.
He said despite the turnover rate being lower than perceived by many, it still has a negative impact on the police force.
"We do lose about two to three officers a month. It takes us nine to 12 months to get someone recruited, hired, trained and into the field."
The chief said he is confident a positive solution is on the way.
"It is a strain on us in the field, but I'm optimistic," the chief stated. "At the end of the day, I think that this is going to come together."
Wilmington City Council is slated to finalize their next fiscal budget by April 25.
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