ROME CITY — Part-time officers in Rome City now have a little more incentive to take hard-to-fill weekend and holiday shifts, as the town council OK’d a special pay boost for those shifts.
That will hopefully help keep more officers on the streets patrolling the town and give Rome City residents better police protection.
Rome City Town Marshal Jim Sheffield first presented the issue in July, stating he was having a tough time getting the department’s four part-timers to pick up shifts on weekends and holidays.
Rome City has two full-time officers — Sheffield and his Chief Deputy Paul Hoffman — but then relies on four part-time officers and a roster of unpaid volunteer reserves to fill holes in the schedule. Any time no one from the town is available to patrol, the Noble County Sheriff’s Department provides coverage for the town.
Weekdays aren’t so much of a problem since Sheffield and Hoffman cover most of the day, but covering weekends and holidays has been more difficult. Sheffield proposed a special premium pay of an extra $4 per hour for those days to maybe entice more people to take on shifts.
As Sheffield explained, the part-timers all have “full-time civilian jobs” that they work throughout the week, too. Part-timers are paid $15-17 per hour, depending on their experience.
“There are certain days that Paul or I are not working and there’s an opening in the schedule that needs to be covered, so we rely on those guys to fill in,” Sheffield said. “Sometimes they have a schedule conflict and can’t do it, but most of the time they’re able to fill in those shifts that are open and we need coverage on.”
Part of the problem, Sheffield said, is that Rome City is fighting a war of value — is it worth it to work on a Saturday or Sunday over spending time with family or taking a special detail that can sometimes pay up to $30 per hour?
Rome City can’t just hire more part-time help and Sheffield was reluctant to let go of anyone over the weekends and holidays issue, in part because the part-timers have been loyal to the town, but also because training a new officer is an expensive endeavor.
Anyone who receives pay for performing police duties must complete training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and between tuition, housing and travel, that costs thousands of dollars each.
After taking an extra month to consider Sheffield’s proposal, town board members were on board Monday night, approving a slightly smaller premium rate of an extra $3 per hour.
Sheffield said he was appreciative of the support and hopes the pay boost will help improve coverage.
“They’re very understanding about it. It’s not like I’m trying to pull teeth with our town board,” Sheffield said.