LEWISTON — The city approved a new police patrol union contract Tuesday that features a significant increase in the starting pay for officers, a move officials said is necessary in order to compete with other departments.

The new three-year contract, unanimously supported by the City Council, increases the starting wage for officers by $4, and adds two additional steps to the wage scale. It will also include a 2.5% cost-of-living increase in each year of the contract.

While the contract doesn’t go into effect until July 1, 2024, the changes to starting pay and wage scales would be adopted in the current agreement, city administration said. According to a memo, the starting wage effective Nov. 30 will be $29 an hour.

By fiscal year 2024-25, starting pay will be $30.87.

During the council meeting Tuesday, Police Chief David St. Pierre said the department has been losing officers to departments in smaller cities that are offering more pay.

“We have a lot of great officers here and I think we owe it to them to keep them here, as well as attract more applicants and better applicants,” he said.


On Wednesday, St. Pierre said the pay raises will put Lewiston in line with or ahead of what many other departments are offering.

According to a memo from Brian O’Malley, deputy city administrator, the police department has been “experiencing a staffing crisis,” with “burnout and stress” resulting in personnel looking elsewhere.

He said the department currently has 10 vacancies, with an additional eight officers unable to work due to injury, military duty, or attending the police academy. The memo said the police patrol union recently informed Chief St. Pierre that another six officers are “actively seeking employment at other area police agencies due to the difference in pay and workload.”

During meetings between the union and city administration, officials said the most urgent need agreed upon was pay increases, especially as many municipalities dealing with similar staffing shortages have recently increased pay.

During the meeting Tuesday, councilors said they were in full support of the pay increases, even as they have received questions over its impact on the city budget.

According to City Administrator Heather Hunter, the city is estimating an increase of between $375,000 and $400,000 for fiscal year 2024, excluding overtime and benefits.


Councilor Linda Scott said the change “is a lot of money,” but said “the reality is we need a safe city.”

Scott, referencing the panic caused by a string of threats made to schools Tuesday that were found to be a hoax, added, “I think about what happened in our state today. If we don’t have the proper folks to handle situations like that, we’re in trouble.”

Councilor Rick LaChapelle said police are asked to work under an “ever-changing political environment,” and that one of the reasons he ran for City Council was “the negativity” directed toward police over the last couple years.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be the highest paying in the state,” he said.

Lt. Derrick St. Laurent said city officials and staff deserve credit for supporting the pay raises.

“With the world right now where ‘defund the police’ has really taken over, I think it really shows where the city’s at right now, and supporting the police,” he said.


Mayor Carl Sheline, who voted Tuesday due to councilor absences, said, “Let’s face it, we’re going to need this to stay competitive with other agencies in the state, and I’m really thankful for our police department.”

St. Pierre said the pay changes are being implemented as part of the current agreement in hopes of retaining current employees.

Police officials are urging potential applicants to reach out to the department.

In response to St. Laurent’s comment on the council’s support, Scott said in a social media post late Wednesday that she was “disheartened” to hear a police official make a divisive “reference to defunding the police.”

“The community is and always has supported our police department and recognizes the challenges they face,” she said. “Members of this council, with differing political views, came together to fund the police and we have also funded the expansion of Project Support You that provides services to those most in need. Our decision was about safety and not politics.”

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