BINGHAMTON – This week, Binghamton City Council unanimously approved Mayor Kraham’s proposal to pay police officers a retention incentive using $363,000 of American Rescue Plan funding, federal dollars awarded to Binghamton to help with local recovery efforts following the pandemic. (Councilwoman Aviva Friedman was absent and did not vote).
The proposal was introduced by the Mayor at Monday’s December 5th work session and then ‘fast-tracked’ and formally approved two days later at the Council’s December 7th business meeting.
Mayor Kraham personally presented his proposal to City Council on Monday, and explained that there are 19 positions that are currently vacant in the police department. He also said there are zero eligible candidates on the “civil service” list, expressing alarm over the lack of interest in serving as a police officer in Binghamton and the challenges with retaining current officers.
There were no details provided about how the incentive would work or why it was being rushed. It is not clear if the incentive is being paid to all officers evenly, whether it requires them to remain with the police department for part or most of the 2023 year, or whether the incentive will be “clawed back” if the officer leaves sooner. Republican Councilmembers Sophia Resciniti, Tom Scanlon, and Chair Phil Strawn did not ask any questions about the incentive proposal.
And while Mayor Kraham explained he recently met with about 60 members of the police union to discuss concerns among the workforce, he never mentioned if any of the members identified salary as one of the reasons why officers are leaving.
Passing the incentive, the Mayor said, would send a clear signal that “we got their back.”
Mayor Kraham also said some other changes are being made to hopefully retain some officers. Kraham said the department will now allow officers to grow beards and have tattoos.
According to a summary provided by Binghamton Chuck Shager and based on a review of online legislation, this incentive pay is the fourth time a significant chuck of pandemic recovery dollars have been directed to the Binghamton Police Department. In addition to this $363,000 approved for police rentention incentive pay, the other three allocations of pandemic recovery dollars by the former mayor and Mayor Kraham are as follows:
- $530,000 was used to purchase ten police vehicles
- Approximately $550,000 was used to provide police with ‘bonus pay’ for serving during a pandemic
- $1,000,000 was allocated to ‘gun violence reduction efforts,’ which primarily includes paying for staff and overtime to increase bike and foot patrols, neighborhood watch activities, and increased surveillance in the city’s poor neighborhoods most impacted by COVID
Readers can watch Mayor Kraham’s presentation of his proposal here (starts at 9:45 and ends at 23:00).