Ocean Springs starts its officers and firefighters at just under $22,000. In Biloxi, starting police and firefighters get almost $26,000 a year which also includes full health benefits for the employee and immediate family. In Jackson County, the Sheriff's Department starts its officers between nearly $25,000 and almost $27,000 depending if the officer has been to the law enforcement academy.
Since the summer, four Ocean Springs Police officers have left the department, all for the same reason. "Right now we're losin' 'em due to salary mostly. It's a little bit lower than the agencies in the area," says Assistant Chief George Mulvaney. A couple of aldermen say Ocean Springs has the unwanted reputation of being a training ground for police officers and firefighters. They get a few years experience then move on to higher paying jobs. At the fire department two firefighters quit, and the chief says five more are waiting to be hired by the Biloxi Fire Department. So the city is now looking at public safety pay as a separate budget item. Ward 5 Aldermen Jerry Dalgo says, "And we wanna make sure it's more consistent as they progress through the ranks when they receive the training, we wanna make sure it's more consistent with other municipalities. We're takin' a look at what other cities are payin' their police officers and firemen and we're gonna try to be more competitive." "You have a lot of 'em comin' in trainin' getting on with the p.d and the fire department and see they can get better pay across the bridge to the east or west and you can't blame 'em, they're gonna go," adds Alderman at Large Danny Jalinivich.
What may also have to go, Jalanivich says, is some of the money the city donates to charities. "We're losin' good employees and some way, some shape, form or fashion we have to do what we gotta do to keep 'em here and if it means cuttin' back on the charities we may have to do that," says Jalanivich. He and Dalgo says they'll consider all funding options if it means keeping public safety workers in Ocean Springs.