By Joe Murchison

A new three-year collective bargaining agreement between the city of Laurel and its police officers went into effect July 1, and the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said it is a good deal for both sides.

Mayor Craig Moe said the package will increase officer salaries and benefits by $1.4 million over the three-year period.

Aaron Waddell, local FOP president, said that breaks down to a 9% pay increase this fiscal year, a 7% increase in the next fiscal year, and a 7% increase the third year. Bottom line, officers will be earning 23% more by 2026.

Waddell said the increases can be good for city taxpayers as well as officers. He noted that police departments throughout the country are facing a shortage of qualified candidates and often try to attract officers from other departments with enticements such as signing bonuses. Anne Arundel County is offering a $25,000 signing bonus for trained officers from other jurisdictions, he said.

Laurel “is paying 10s of thousands, if not a hundred thousand, to train an officer,” Waddell said. That training takes about a year. Laurel’s new agreement keeps the local police department competitive, cutting down on turnover and the need to train new officers, he said.

Laurel’s police force has 70 authorized officer positions, but personnel numbers had fallen into the 50s in the years preceding the pandemic, Waddell said. With a new pay scale instituted in 2020, the number of officers has now risen to about 65, he said.