Ste. Genevieve police chief Eric Bennett last week continued campaigning — on his own time — for Proposition P, which would raise the city’s property tax rate of $0.7316 by $0.2684 per $100 of assessed valuation.
“It will be used solely to increase the salary for our officers,” Bennett said last week during the candidates forum at Ste. Genevieve City Hall.
He estimated that the tax will take in about $170,000 per year, and he plans to put that all into salaries with increases of $16,000 across the board for each position. He said that would close the gap between the starting salary at the police department and the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Office.
Of the current disparity, Bennett said, “It makes it difficult for me to retain my guys, it makes it difficult for me to recruit new men and women to join the force.”
He recalled the day in December of 2015 — which he later called the worst day of his career — when one of his officers was involved in a shooting in downtown when a suspect attempted to drive off and drag the officer who was holding on to his vehicle.
“He was making $13 an hour at the time,” Bennett said. “And it just seems like a travesty to me that these guys put their life on the line … and we’re asking them to do that for wages that are less than some fast-food workers or [paid to] other professions that certainly aren’t as stressful or carry as much responsibility as being a police officer.”