Biloxi To Pay Starting Police & Firefighters More

Family issues, federal law enforcement jobs, retirement. These are just some of the reasons Biloxi's police chief says his department has more than two dozen unfilled police officer jobs. On Tuesday, Chief Bruce Dunagan tried to convince the Biloxi City Council that higher starting salaries would help drum up interest.

The Biloxi Police Department needs to fill 33 vacancies. Chief Dunagan says the job comes with lots of medical, dental and vision benefits, as well as other incentives.

"Education incentives. Take home cars. The lists goes on and on," said Chief Dunagan. "However, with the younger generation, benefits are sometimes secondary. Many of them look at monetary. What is it going to pay?"

Chief Dunagan says the City of Biloxi pays entry level police officers $28,371. He believes raising that to $30,000 would help him be able to lure more applicants. Pay raises take council approval, which it got in a six to one vote Tuesday with one change to also include firefighters.

Dunagan says while he knows all applicants won't end up as officers, getting more people interested is a good start.

Chief Dunagan said, "It's a tough job. And a very tough job, a lot of people apply and then realize later say, 'That's not what I want to do.' It takes a long time to get people trained and to get them out on the street on their own. You're talking a year and a half, two years. And the quality of life of the citizens and everybody benefits from highly trained and skilled law enforcement officers."

Chief Bruce Dunagan says Biloxi has 147 police officer slots in all. He says the increase in entry level pay means Biloxi is second in the state, behind only Tupelo.