Manning his post yesterday, an officer in the university’s Department of Public Safety said that he’s often thought about working elsewhere.

Only months after the university and the union representing DPS officers signed a contract aimed at reducing attrition and improving the quality of applicants, the officer – who was granted anonymity because DPS officers are not permitted to speak to the media – said that officers at other universities sometimes mock the pay of DPS officers when they gather together for group training.

“Most of the time they laugh at us,” he said. “They say, `You’re making that much and you’re at Georgetown? It’s supposed to be the top school in the area.'”

The officer is not the only one who said that the new agreement hasn’t entirely satisfied officers’ demands. Since the university increased officers’ wages in March and later agreed to provide them with more equipment, some officers and union representatives said that they still see room for improvement.

Victor Johnson, a DPS officer and a union delegate of Allied International Union, to which all DPS officers belong, said that the pay increase has not had a substantial effect on the department’s turnover rate.

“It did not have the effect we wanted,” he said.

Negotiations that concluded in March between the university and the officers’ union for a new contract resulted in the university agreeing to grant DPS officers a pay raise of $1.25 an hour retroactive to Feb. 1 and a subsequent $1.25 raise that took effect in August. An additional 4 percent pay raise will take effect by the end of 2008 – bringing the starting hourly rate for DPS officers to $15.60 – by the terms of the contract.

To address the high attrition rate – at the time, more than half the officers had been working for fewer than 15 months – the renewed contract also included a pay raise for officers who remained on the payroll until February 2009.

Jonas Asante, who is currently applying to be a DPS officer, said that pay was one of the factors in choosing where he will work. He said that he is also applying to other public safety departments at area universities. Georgetown is number three on his list.

“Pay for the same position at George Mason University and American University is higher,” he said.

The anonymous officer said his experience at DPS has been “pretty good,” but added that many officers are still deterred from being a DPS officer because of the relatively low wages.

“Officers leave because there are better benefits somewhere else, better pay somewhere else,” he said. “I’ve thought about leaving several times.”

The anonymous officer also said that attaining higher rank in DPS is difficult.

Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco, who assumed his post in June – – three months after the new contract was signed – said in an e-mail from university spokesperson Julie Bataille that he is working to further improve recruitment and retention of DPS officers.

“I am working with [DPS] Director [Darryl] Harrison and other university officials to see what additional steps may be possible to continue to recruit and retain the highest quality campus police officers at Georgetown,” DelMonaco said.

The new contract also contained a provision to provide DPS officers with new equipment – batons, mace and additional safety vests. DelMonaco said in the e-mail that the majority of patrol officers will properly trained, certified and equipped to use batons and mace by the end of the academic year.

“We are in the process of identifying the specific equipment and organizing the training to ensure that our officers are fully certified and knowledgeable in their ability to properly carry and use this equipment should the need arise,” DelMonaco said in the e-mail.

Johnson said that DPS officers are generally “happy” with the provisions.

“The process is taking longer than they would have liked, though,” she added.

“We are in the process of identifying the specific equipment and organizing the training to ensure that our officers are fully certified and knowledgeable in their ability to properly carry and use this equipment should the need arise,” DelMonaco said in the e-mail.

Asante said he feels the equipment is sufficient.

The anonymous officer said that he thinks that DelMonaco, who was appointed to his post this summer, has been doing a good job.

“[DPS officers] love him. He’s been great to us the whole time. He listens to us. I like his plans, everybody likes his style,” the officer said.

DPS Communication Officer Lee Wells, another delegate of Allied International Union, said that Georgetown is taking steps in the right direction.

“We still have work to do, as far as where the union feels we need to be,” Wells said. “Pay is always an issue. Officer safety. Training. Those would be the focal points.”

The negotiations from last March went fairly well, he said. Although the union did not reach all of the goals they set out to reach, such as paid sick days – which the university does not offer to staff currently hired – the agreements were a step in the right direction, he said.

“It’s a constant effort to make things better,” Wells said.

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