$177.4K price tag: Police chief calls for more pay, officers in a growing city

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Denison Police Chief Mike Gudgel walks with protesters during a march in support of George Floyd in Denison in 2020.
Denison Police Officer Kevin Venton took time out to help welcome students and staff back to Terrell Elementary school in 2020. Visiting with Venton are Terrell staff member Jessica Horne and student Case Bussey.

Since 2016, the number of police calls in Denison has more than doubled. However, the size of the Denison Police Department has not increased significantly and still faces some vacancies.

As city is on the brink of entering into the new fiscal year, one of DPD's biggest asks is for a pay increase for the majority of positions in  order to retain and increase recruitment.

This proposal comes with a $177,410 price tag.

The Denison Police Department often receive nearly 100 calls for service in a 24 hour time period.

The recommendation made during recent budget talks with city officials is one of several initiatives that could bring the department up to size to meet the growing needs of a growing community.

"I can ask for all the cops in the world folks, but if I can't fill the seat, it's a shame," Police Chief Mike Gudgel said last month.

One of the issues facing Denison's department is a disparity between its pay and that of other departments across the region. Gudgel also highlighted difficulties with recruitment following incidents over the past 18 months. While he was not specific about these incidents, this was likely a reference to several highly-publicized cases of police brutality, including the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota during the summer of 2020.

This disparity in pay can be seen most clearly on the entry level positions, where officers make 13.37 percent less than what they would make in other departments. Likewise, patrol officers with one year of experience make 10.02 percent less than with other communities.

Gudgel noted that there are some variances in this. For example, if an office comes to Denison with experience in other communities, they may not start at the first year tier.

Denison Police Chief Mike Gudgel poses for a photo after giving blood at the annual Battle of the Badges blood drive in Denison.

"Some people say that is unfair, but that is the game now," he said.

Gudgel recommended changes in the scale that would bring officers within 5 percent of what they would make in other departments.

Gudgel is also recommending other changes to the department this budget cycle that are aimed at increasing the number of officers available for duty by increasing the staff size and reallocating some tasks to civilian positions.

Another program that could incentivize officers to join the department and live in Denison is the assigned vehicle or take home vehicle program.

Since Gudgel joined DPD, the department has made strides in alleviating some staffing issues. The department currently has 51 sworn officer positions, up from 45 in 2013. The department has reduced the number of vacancies to three sworn officer positions — down from the 10 that it had when he joined — with two out due to injury, two in training and one in the police academy.

Under the proposal, Gudgel would like to add four officer positions, a crime analyst, public safety officer, property and evidence tech and two communications specialists. The property and evidence tech position would be a civilian role that would free up officer resources for use elsewhere in the department.

Another program that could incentivize officers to join the department and live in Denison is the assigned vehicle or take-home vehicle program.  

Gudgel said the program could have several benefits to the department including increasing department visibility throughout Denison while serving as a crime deterrent. The program could also assist in rapid response from off-duty personnel who are called in due to an emergency situation, he added.