Note: This story was last updated at 12 p.m. Oct. 16.
It probably wasn’t the explanation that many expected, but pay was cited most often as the reason for turnover and low morale in the Oak Ridge Police Department, according to a report released Thursday.
Some have pinned most of the blame for the department’s woes—or perceived woes, depending upon your perspective—on Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi, and they had called for an investigation of the chief earlier this year on several different fronts.
Among those pressing for an investigation was Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn. She and others had raised questions about the chief’s temperament, including whether he has outbursts and is vindictive, and what Baughn suggested is a high turnover rate.
But the City Council instead approved a review of the ORPD that focused on morale, turnover, and administrative policies. In March, Council hired the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee to conduct the six-month review, which was first proposed by Council member Kelly Callison. MTAS presented its findings in a 20-page report presented to the Oak Ridge City Council in a special work session on Thursday.
The report identified a primary culprit familiar to many workers: pay. But as officers have pointed out, they, unlike most other workers, face danger on a daily basis.
Most of those interviewed by MTAS thought that ORPD salaries are not suitable for retaining good employees, MTAS consultant Rex Barton told Council members Thursday. Whatever raises have been given in the past few years have been outstripped by the rise in the cost of benefits, Barton said.