By Arianna Cook
Residents of Treasure Island were shocked after they received letters at their doors from Mel Lenehan stating the annual income for Treasure Island Police Department officers. There have been two different letters so far declaring the six figure pay and where it comes from that Lenehan, currently running for Mayor of Treasure Island, has made more visible for the public. According to both letters and documents on TIPD income at www.mytreasureisland.org, each officer gets paid close to if not over $100,000 each year; Sergeants and Lieutenants make well over $110,000 a year.
Lenehan states that she has “always thought they have been paid above what the nation has been set at.” Lenehan went on to say, “I have had a Chicago police detective of thirty-three years tell me that the Chicago police don’t even make this kind of money with all the perks included. The letter has stirred the pot. There’s people that are very disappointed on how the money is being handled.”
At first many people did not believe the information, but when they got a chance to research the Treasure Island website, they were astonished. “The average salary for a Treasure Island cop is $118,000!” exclaimed Diana LaFalcia, a four year Treasure Island resident. “My husband looked it up because he couldn’t believe it, but they actually make this money. It’s crazy.”
According to www.stpete.org/police, an officer at the maximum level of promotion, or the highest ranking police officer, is paid $70,946. According to Treasure Island’s website, the lowest annual salary is $81,738 and the highest is $116,558. Sergeants and lieutenants get paid between $111,000 and $130,000 annually. That is a large pay gap, considering that many of the police officers in the St. Petersburg Police Department are not at the maximum level of promotion and get paid less than the $70,946 listed above, with sergeants and lieutenants making $84,000-$97,000 for a maximum level of promotion. To complete this break down, a lieutenant fully promoted working in St. Petersburg will never make past $97,000, but a lieutenant at Treasure Island makes $130,562 with less area to patrol. The numbers don’t quite add up to the citizens of Treasure Island. Shane Templeton, who lives and owns a business in Treasure Island commented, “No police officer here should be allowed to make that much because no other officer in Florida gets paid that much.”
This difference in pay, according to Mel Lenehan, should be wisely put toward our savings in case we need bridge repair. She said, “I am estimating we will save 1.2 million. We have five bridges that we have to maintain.” Two bridges are currently receiving repair and upkeep on the Treasure Island Causeway, and she continues to state that Treasure Island barely has money for those repairs. “We should be saving 1.5 million just for our bridges alone. We have no savings for that, so that would be a good start to be self-sufficient for our bridges in our future.” The extra money that could be saved by cutting down TIPD salaries definitely has other places to go, and Mel Lenehan is passionate about getting it there. Lenehan also suggested that the community elect to get rid of officers and replace them with St. Pete officers like St. Pete Beach and Madeira Beach. She declared that “St. Pete officers do a fine job with those beaches.”
As far as comment from the TIPD themselves, Lieutenant Boudreau declined to speak about the departments pay because he did not want to interfere with the upcoming election, but did say, “Our officers do so much here; they patrol our city 24/7. We’re a non-stop service agency, so we’re always here. There are always police officers and a supervisor on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” He concluded with, “We have a number of programs here in the city including our house watch program, and that is, when someone goes away on vacation they fill out a form which tells us when they are not going to be home, and the officers go by and check their home daily.” That is proven to be a unique service to the TIPD, as well as bike registration and settling discrepancies at our local bars. These services are exclusive to Treasure Island residents; it gives them a sense of safety. “Our officers keep us safe,” said Irwin Wilensky, a 15 year Treasure Island resident. “They are familiar with the community and are always personable with us. Criminals don’t cause a ruckus because they are always on top of it.” Wilensky agrees with the officers’ salary and claims they get paid “appropriately”.
The impact of a major pay cut could have dangerous effects. Similar to Wilensky, other residents fear it could result in a loss of officers, a decrease in security, or even damaged relations with the officers. Would you like to get a pay cut for a job you’ve been doing for years? There is a large amount for the residents of Treasure Island to consider. It is up to the people to decide in the upcoming election.