- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Alaska’s second-largest city is offering a $5,000 bonus to police officers in other communities who make a lateral move to the Fairbanks Police Department and stay for at least three years.

Police departments throughout Alaska are offering better salaries and benefits, said Fairbanks Police Chief Randall Aragon, and the city is at a disadvantage for recruiting and retaining officers.

“We’re in crisis mode right now,” Aragon told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://bit.ly/2aKCLrk). “Eighty percent of the nation’s police departments have openings for us to compete with. Our health care package is not competitive to attract anybody.”

The department has 48 authorized, sworn positions, said patrol officer Ron Dupee, president of the Public Safety Employees Association, and as of Tuesday was down eight positions.

Six officers are expected to depart by the end of 2017 and two are seeking employment elsewhere, he said.

“If something is not done, I think we’re going to lose more senior officers who aren’t ready for retirement,” Dupee said. “They’re just doing what’s best for their families and getting better pay and benefits.”

Traffic patrols have been cut due to vacancies, Dupee said.

“It is a public safety problem,” Dupee said.

An entry-level police officer can earn more than $54,000 annually, Dupee said. However, about half the police force pays $907.40 monthly for a full-coverage health care plan, which adds up to nearly $11,000.

Insurance costs have increased every year for the last three years and it feels like a pay cut, he said.

Many officers opt for a catastrophic coverage plan at $342 per month, with a $5,000 deductible, he said.

Entry-level police officers in Anchorage earn more than $67,000 annually and do not pay for health insurance. Juneau officers pay from zero to $186.40 for health insurance and can earn significant discounts through a healthy rewards program.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com


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