My Turn: Who Works for Who?

  • The Greenfield Police STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 5/17/2022 9:01:40 AM
Modified: 5/17/2022 8:59:53 AM

The median wage in the city of Greenfield is around $32,000; for Greenfield police officers it is $104,000 — more than the mayor, and nearly three times as much as the city clerk. So this is where I’d like to begin.

I’m not writing to say that we should do away with our police force, or that all police officers are racists, abusers, and embezzlers (although many are, far more than would amount to “bad apples”). I’m not writing this to say that the police in Greenfield are worse than they are elsewhere, the most violent, or the most bigoted — because they aren’t. I’m also not writing this because I’ve had a litany of bad experiences with the cops, because in fact I have never been arrested, ticketed, or even threatened by a Greenfield police officer.

I am, however, an elected official tasked with managing a city that is over 50 million dollars in debt, that cannot afford to fix its roads or sidewalks, that cannot find adequate shelter for the homeless, that cannot hire building inspectors to save our lives (well, you know — literally), and that oversees a school system in which the salary for teacher’s assistants barely keeps pace with the minimum wage.

Yet somehow the $4 million annual police budget – 40% higher than that for the Department of Public Works — is deemed not only within our means but insufficient, so much so that the City Council just approved an additional $1 million to renovate the police station.

And what do we get for it? Well, for my part, when my home was broken into last summer and my electric scooter was stolen, the police got it back for me within two hours and then went out a second time to retrieve the charging cord. Two months later, an officer’s advice on how to evict a problem tenant proved more effective than the advice I got from my attorney. So, from my experience as a light-skinned homeowner with no criminal record, the Greenfield police provide a valuable service and should be commended for it — though I recognize that others may have reason to feel differently.

Median wage $32,000; police wage $104,000.

The Greenfield PD spends $37,000 annually on police uniforms — nearly $1,100 per officer, per year (aren’t they washable?). In addition, the police are given an annual $30,000 clothing allowance — $882.00 per officer, per year, for their personal use, above and beyond their salaries. When is enough money enough?

Electricians, oil rig workers (roughnecks), and nurses accept that their jobs come with substantially more discomfort and risk of injury than other jobs, and understand it is a trade-off for the higher pay. But when it comes to our police, we are treated to an endless pity-party about the need for us to sell the farm to improve their safety and comfort.

When the police go out on a call, they leave their engine running, even if it’s an hour; they send two, three, four officers in separate cars to situations already under control (and non-situations). Annual fuel budget, $40,000.

The police want new locker rooms to make them feel more comfortable at work. They want a new garage to accommodate the acquisition of luxury SUVs for patrol. They want an indoor car wash. 

Any social scientist will tell you that it can be hard to relate to those with vastly different resources because your lived experiences are so different. No one making $104,000 knows what it’s like to live out of a pickup truck or be denied a bathroom because they can’t afford to buy a coffee. No one whose work pays for their clothes understands the shame of filling out a voucher for clothes at the Salvation Army. No cop’s stress level rises along with the price of gas.

As it turns out, I too would like a new garage, an indoor car wash, free clothes, and a coatroom. I can’t afford these things because my spare cash pays the police’s salaries.

Median wage $32,000; police wage $104,000. Who works for who?

Jasper Lapienski represents Precinct 7 on the Greenfield City Council.


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