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Published July 29 2013

Editorial: Police pay in Fargo seems fair

The suggestion by some Fargo police officers that low pay is the source of low morale doesn’t make sense, particularly to other wage-earners, and to the taxpayers. While police work is unique and stressful, men and women who want to be police officers certainly go into the field with eyes wide open. They know what they are getting into. They understand the dangers and rewards. And it’s certain they know their salaries before they sign on.

The salary dustup in the Fargo department is not convincing. Comparisons to pay levels in similar-size police forces in the region and other states show clearly that Fargo does quite well by its police personnel. The surprise might be that police pay in all the departments surveyed in Sunday’s Forum is as low as it is. But Fargo falls well above the average, and in in the upper end of the eight departments cited.

That being said, there are factors that affect job morale other than pay, although pay might be a complicating factor in a morale situation. That appears to be driving concerns some officers have expressed. Others, however, are satisfied with pay and the job atmosphere in the department.

So, as usual with these kinds of labor/salary questions, the picture is bright or bleak depending on who has the megaphone. That’s not to say an operation as complex and dynamic as a police department is ever going to be some sort of job satisfaction utopia. Police work is difficult, dangerous and demanding. Pay frequently can be the least of an officer’s concerns. Police work attracts dedicated people with strong personalities. The mix is a recipe for conflict among officers and managers. The best managers – chiefs of police – are skilled at managing the conflicts.

The Fargo department does excellent work, often quietly and without public fanfare. Officers are out there all day and all night. The city is safe in large part because of their effective presence. They earn every dollar in their paychecks. And, it must be said, that when compared to other similar police departments, the pay level is fair.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum

management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.