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With Federal Officers' Duties Changing, Pay Might Also

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  • With Federal Officers' Duties Changing, Pay Might Also

    With Federal Officers' Duties Changing, Pay Might Also

    By Stephen Barr
    Sunday, September 25, 2005; C02

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
    dyn/content/article/2005/09/24/AR2005092401241.html

    Within a few weeks, congressional committees will take the first
    steps toward redefining the pay and benefits provided federal law
    enforcement officers.

    The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the renewed focus on
    border security have raised broad policy concerns about federal law
    enforcement. Does the government need more officers? Does it pay
    enough to recruit and retain the best, especially in high-cost
    cities? Are differences in pay and retirement rules affecting morale
    and contributing to turnover?

    As the Office of Personnel Management said in a 2004 report, "The
    world today is a very different and much more complex place, and the
    physical requirements in the field of law enforcement are much more
    varied and demanding, particularly in light of the 9/11 terrorist
    attacks."

    Some federal police forces have expanded to include teams trained in
    special weapons, in bomb detection and in airborne surveillance. FBI
    agents are being asked to focus on intelligence and counterterrorism
    rather than traditional law enforcement, and Customs and Border
    Protection officers are under pressure to stop any weapons of mass
    destruction at border crossings.

    The staffs of Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Jon Porter (R-
    Nev.) and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) are working on a plan to
    revamp law enforcement compensation. The three chair congressional
    panels that oversee the federal workplace.

    The staffs plan to produce an "options paper" that will be made
    public to "generate discussion that will help us draft comprehensive
    classification, compensation and benefits reform for federal law
    enforcement officers," said Marcie Ridgway , a spokeswoman for
    Voinovich.

    Drew Crockett , a spokesman for Davis, said any changes will
    be "more suited to law enforcement officer needs in a post-9/11
    world. It is our hope to have something introduced before the end of
    the year."

    The basic pay and benefits rules for the government's 106,000 law
    enforcement officers have remained essentially the same since the
    late 1940s, although some have been modified. Congress has sweetened
    retirement benefits for some uniformed officers but not others.
    Court rulings have created what OPM calls "unwarranted differences"
    in retirement benefits.

    One key rule -- mandatory retirement at age 57 -- helps maintain a
    physically vigorous workforce but also steers experienced officers
    into retirement at a relatively early age.

    Recruitment and retention, and their link to pay scales and
    benefits, are not clear-cut, either.

    Last year's OPM study found "high quit rates" among officers during
    their first two to four years on the job. Some officers leave
    because they cannot meet training requirements or find they are not
    well-suited to the dangers and risks inherent in law enforcement.

    But OPM added, "It may also be the case that more flexibility in
    setting starting [pay] rates is needed to make federal agencies more
    competitive in specific local labor markets and to attract higher-
    quality employees who have a greater commitment."

    Some recent research may support that concern. Last month, the
    Congressional Budget Office found that federal law enforcement
    salaries were below those paid by state and local enforcement
    agencies in several metropolitan areas.

    On average, however, federal officers earned 4 percent more than
    their state and local counterparts. The CBO said the higher average
    pay could be caused by differences in employment practices. Federal
    agencies have higher educational requirements and employ a larger
    proportion of detectives and investigators than state and local
    governments.

    Still, in big cities the CBO found significant variations in pay.

    In Washington, federal officers make about 6 percent more than non-
    federal officers. In Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, federal pay was
    more than 40 percent higher than pay for comparable state and local
    detectives and investigators.

    But in Los Angeles and New York, federal officers were paid about 11
    percent less, and in San Diego about 8 percent less, than local and
    state officers in those cities. In Philadelphia, federal
    investigators were paid about 14 percent less than their non-federal
    counterparts.

    Groups representing officers, meanwhile, are eager to see how the
    Davis-Porter-Voinovich policy paper might change the rules.

    "I anxiously await it," said Richard Zehme , president of the
    Federal Criminal Investigators Association.

    E-mail:[email protected]
    I believe forgiveness is Gods function; my job is to simply arrange the meeting.

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