City, police reach agreement to provide lateral entry incentives for new officers

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

NILES — The Niles Police Department and the City of Niles have reached an agreement both parties hope will help fill open police officer positions.

The city council approved a Letter of Agreement between the City of Niles and the Police Officers Labor Council to provide lateral entry hires up to the three-year salary range for the NPD. The agreement was reached following a closed session at the conclusion of Monday’s city council meeting.

The move comes after the NPD has been unable to recruit qualified applicants for its open positions. According to the Letter of Agreement, the NPD has not received a single application for police officer job openings in the two months since the postings went live. 

The Police Department and the Union have met with city officials to discuss the possibility of utilizing the practice of lateral entry and incentives that may help promote it. NPD Chief Jim Millin believes all parties mutually benefit from the city’s ability to attract quality applicants for the department’s openings.

If qualified, a new hire could begin at the two or three-year salary level.

“I think the council recognizes the troubles and issues we’re going through trying to recruit new hires,” said Niles Police Chief Jim Millin. “The city has had at least three patrol officer position openings and we have yet to have really a single qualified application. I think in recognizing that, they see this as a move that might help incentivize officers to come to Niles and begin police work for us.”

The Letter of Agreement states:

  • Officers hired with at least three years of combined service with other law enforcement agencies would be hired at the three-year step of the collective bargaining agreement’s wage scale – currently $29.9611 per hour or $62,319.06 annually.
  • Officers hired with less than two years of combined service with other law enforcement agencies will be placed at the wage step corresponding to their experience (e.g., an officer with two years of combined experience with other agencies will be placed at “2y” on the wage scale). 
  • Placement at varying steps of the wage scale does not impact seniority. Seniority will continue to follow Article 7 of the collective bargaining agreement and will be based solely on date of hire. • Nothing in the agreement alters the fact that newly hired and current officers must attain all yearly steps for other benefits, (e.g., longevity at five years of actual service, 120 hours of vacation after completing six years of actual service, etc.). 
  • If the Department hires a lateral entry, any then-current Department officer with 3 years of combined service between the City’s Police Department and other law enforcement agencies would also be moved to the three year step for wages.

Vacation During the first year of employment:

  • Officers hired under this agreement with at least three years of combined experience will receive 80 hours of vacation time at the time of hire to be used within the first calendar year of employment. 
  • Officers hired with between two and three years of combined experience would receive 56 hours of vacation time at the time of hire to be used within the first calendar year of employment. 
  • Officers hired with between one and two years of combined experience would receive 40 hours of vacation time at the time of hire to be used within the first calendar year of employment.
  • If an officer is hired as a lateral entry and he/she receives the vacation allotment in subsections A-C above, any-then current officers working for the Department with less than one year of service would also receive 40 hours of vacation time to be used in the calendar year in which it is granted.
  • If an officer hired as a lateral entry separates from employment for any reason within one calendar year of hire, that officer will not be entitled to any payout for unused vacation time.

Niles is not the only police department struggling to stay adequately staffed. Police Departments across the country have seen reductions in the number of qualified applicants. 

Millin believes the council’s motion will reap benefits in due time.

“It’ll definitely be helpful for sure,” he said. “This is an issue that every department in Berrien County, the state of Michigan and quite frankly across the country is experiencing. I don’t think this is anything new; there are a lot of municipalities doing this type of thing or offering financial incentives, sign on bonuses and so on. I think this is just a different avenue to take.”