BEDFORD — Bedford's police chief and fire chief have decades of experience and are responsible for large budgets and dozens of employees who are called upon to serve in the worst of times.

Despite those responsibilities and experience, the difference in pay between an entry level officer/firefighter and each chief is just $11,000. A third class police officer or firefighter starts at $46,412; the chiefs earn $57,168.

The police and fire chief's position pays around $70,000 in other cities similar to Bedford.

The lack of income growth for city employees has been an issue for a while, especially for the police and fire departments, which have been losing officers and firefighters to other departments or private sector jobs.

Bedford Mayor Sam Craig and the Bedford City Council are evaluating the city's compensation for its public safety employees with the goal of not just attracting the best to its department, but retaining them in their ranks.

Employee turnover has become an issue for the city of Bedford. A salary comparison found that salaries for public safety employees with years of experience in the city of Bedford are below market for comparable cities. The Bedford City Council and Mayor Sam Craig are taking steps to address the issue that affects employee retention in the police and fire departments.


Monday night during a meeting of the Bedford City Council, Craig presented a salary and benefit comparison completed for the city by Baker Tilly, a municipal consulting firm in Indianapolis.

In an effort to compare "apples to apples" the study compared Bedford to cities with similar tax revenues. Those cities are Huntingburg, Frankfort and Lebanon.

The chart showed starting salaries for an officer/firefighter ($46,412) as competitive with comparable cities. But over time, city salaries lose ground. A police sergeant earns $48,186 in Bedford and could make $56,344 at a similar city.

BPD Chief Terry Moore has been chief for three years. In his nearly 18 years with the department, he has seen a shift in how officers view the job. He recalls when the department had numerous road officers with 30 years on the department. Today, just three officers have 30 years or more with BPD — all are ranking officers and not on street patrol.

"In the times we're living in, the goal is just to get to 20 and do something else as a second career. Most don't think of it as a single career anymore," Moore said.

Seeking a solution

Competitive pay has been an issue for some time, Moore said.

"It's not the starting pay. It's where you go and where you end up. When they start, they may be single and the pay is enough, but then they get married and have kids and they don't see much growth," he said.

At about the five-year mark, officers, who by that time are well trained, may leave for better paying jobs at other departments that pay $10,000 more. It's also getting difficult to fill department vacancies. Moore said BPD has two openings and just two applicants for the positions. Unfilled vacancies, coupled with officers training at the state academy, can lead to undermanned shifts, when then makes it hard for officers to take time off.

"I hate to tell people they can't take their time off. We have to figure out how to keep guys here," he said.

Craig said while it's simple to just offer across the board pay raises, that won't stop the revolving door of employee turnover.

"Myself, the clerk-treasurer and the council have a lot of work to do," Craig said.

The city will work with Baker Tilly to examine city finances to address employee pay. Craig also said he wants to draft a long-term plan to address salaries.

"If we just look at it from year to year, it's going to be a big task we will never overcome," he said.

Moore said his officers were happy to hear the city is willing to address public safety wages.

The job of policing, even in a small town like Bedford, is not getting easier.

"Many don't realize the amount of stuff we do and the amount of stress," he said. "We take thousands of calls every year. A lot of times, they may not be much, but we still go and there's always the risk of it going bad.

"Last night, an officer patrolling in Wilson Park found a guy who hung himself from a tree. That's the kind of stuff the public has no idea about. You don't go home and go right to sleep after something like that."

© 2022, Bedford, IN.