In a video that's circulating online, Bobby Hudson, an officer with the Raleigh Police Department, talks about working twelve-hour shifts each day to support his family.
"I cannot live in the city of Raleigh with the pay being so low; just my mortgage alone takes up one of my entire paychecks," Hudson says.
Hudson says he worked hundreds of hours last year providing security at a nightclub to supplement his income. His wife, Tiffany, talks about looking for free activities to do with the couple's four kids and having to explain that their dad can't join them because he has to work again.
Lost in the Beyoncé brouhaha last week was a serious discussion among Teamsters Local 391 members about the salaries of Raleigh police officers. At a meeting last week, members voted unanimously not to boycott Beyoncé's show; it's likely that they'll rally around a push for higher pay, too.
RPD officers, who start out earning just $34,281 a year, are the lowest paid cops in Wake County and among the lowest paid in the country. Rick Armstrong, the Teamsters vice president, says officers' salaries in Fuquay-Varina, Cary, Wake Forest, and Knightdale are closer to $40,000 a year.
"[An RPD officer's salary] is ten to fifteen percent under what it should be," Armstrong says. "It would be a goal to increase starting salaries to forty thousand dollars a year, and we are looking at across-the-board raises, too."
Armstrong says there are other options—such as annual bonuses to officers who pass a physical agility test—the city council could look at as well.
Councillor Russ Stephenson spoke with Armstrong last week. He says he's concerned about whether the city is competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best police officers. But the city's human resources department is about to embark on a citywide re-evaluation of the pay structure for all of its employees. The study will take a year to complete, and Stephenson says the council will have to decide whether to wait for the results or go ahead and fund higher salaries in the next budget.
The cops are clearly hoping for the latter option.
"Why has the city council neglected the people who really put their lives on the line every day and make sure the community is safe?" Hudson asks. "I would like to stay in Raleigh and finish my career out, but I would like to see the city step up to the plate and commit to the police officers as much as the police officers commit to the city."