Most Aurora aldermen signal their support for mayor’s police pay plan
By Stephanie Lulay email@example.com January 15, 2013 11:14PM
Alderman Rick Lawrence discusses his opposition to a proposed plan that would provide Aurora police officers a $500 bonus in recognition of their work toward crime reduction and the zero homicides for 2012 within the city during a meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at Aurora City Hall. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:15AM
AURORA — Mayor Tom Weisner’s plan to give Aurora cops a $500 bonus is likely a go after aldermen voiced wide support for the measure Tuesday night.
Weisner is proposing a $500 bonus for all sworn police officers following Aurora’s no-murder year in 2012.
Although most aldermen back the plan, Alderman Rick Lawrence, 4th Ward, said after the meeting that he will not vote in favor of the measure at City Council next week.
Weisner said the bonus recognizes police who have had “their feet on the ground” fighting crime, “day after day, year after year.”
“The bigger picture of the bonus is what the zero murder story symbolizes — the great news overall of the reduction in crime over the decade,” he said.
The violent crime rate has decreased more than 30 percent from 2006 to 2011 and more than 50 percent in the past decade.
In many cases, crime is lower today than in “the good old days,” Weisner said.
Lawrence said that police officers he has talked with think the bonus is a “silly idea.”
“It’s not about money with our police officers. It’s about respect,” he said.
Weisner said that he consulted with Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas before proposing the bonuses. With Lawrence, the glass is always half empty, Weisner said.
“(The bonus) has received broad support from the community,” he said.
But Weisner has fielded questions about the bonus, too.
“I’ve also heard the comment: ‘Well, if there’s a murder in 2013 are you going to take the bonus back?’” Weisner said. “I think we’re all adult enough and smart enough to realize there’s not going to be zero murders every year going forward... but there’s a continuing effort to fight crime in [Aurora].”
Lawrence asked why 911 dispatchers, who often work overtime in a stressful environment, are not also being offered the bonus.
“There are (officers) on leave getting this [bonus]. Not all of them are on the street,” Lawrence said.
Alderman Rick Mervine, 8th Ward, said there were many groups that heavily played a part in Aurora’s absence of murders last year. Murder of any kind is a horrible subject to discuss and comprehend, he said.
“The key here is that the police department was at the tip of the sword of all of this. They were the ones putting their lives on the line every day to make this happen,” Mervine said.
Alderman Lynda Elmore, 10th Ward, said at some point, city officials had to draw the line on who received the bonuses.
Alderman Richard Irvin, At-large, said that while the city may not be able to repeat the no-murder stat year after year, it is still a great feat.
“It’s just a small gesture of thanks,” he said of the proposed bonus.
The city can sleep well at night knowing police are doing their job, said Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, 7th Ward.
“When you look at [the murders in] Chicago, we are blessed beyond measure,” she said.
City Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said last week that the $144,500 to pay the cop bonuses is expected to be saved in the budget through attrition of positions citywide. When older city workers retire, they are replaced by a new city worker employed at a lower wage.
After more than 20 homicides were committed in 2002 — many attributed to gang violence — Aurora’s increased safety efforts have brought positive change with those numbers dropping to about two homicides per year between 2008 to 2011, and zero in 2012, police officials said. Recorded firearm discharges also have decreased from 357 in 1996 to 61 in 2012.
Aldermen will vote on the police bonus proposal at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place.