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Florence police officers raise concerns about pay, HR and security, city responds

FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) -- 13 Investigates has uncovered turmoil in the small Southern Colorado city of Florence where more than a quarter of the police force may quit.

High-ranking officers in the city say they were promised raises years ago but they still haven't hit their paychecks.

"I don't know how to keep this police department together without talking, without the issues being addressed," Florence Deputy Chief Bill Vinelli told the council.

Vinelli said he was denied a previously approved executive session scheduled for Thursday night to discuss issues the police department is facing.

"After receiving legal advice it has been determined that the discussion items tonight are not only not appropriate for executive session but are actually matters for the city manager to handle," Councilwoman Melissa Hardy said.

Vinelli told the elected officials in open session he had a list of several concerns from officers. 13 Investigates obtained a copy of those issues through a public records request. The top concerns are pay discrepancies, not having an external Human Resources department and security issues at the PD -- including cameras that don't always work.

"We don't have a union, but I feel like I am a union president for the whole city. I've got everybody coming to me - other departments and I-I am just trying, just trying to do the best thing," Vinelli said.

Police leaders in Florence want to raise the starting pay for officers by a little under $2 more an hour. That would bring the Florence PD patrol officer rate to $22.04 to align with starting pay at the nearby Canon City Police Department.

There are currently 14 officers who work at Florence PD and we've learned the city is now at risk of losing them if change doesn't come soon.

"The problem that we're facing here is that I got four police officers that it's not a threat they are going elsewhere for some of these issues," Vinelli said.

Several council members promised to address the issue at the next council meeting. Interim City Manager Sean Garrett agreed to send a report to council members with his plan of action to tackle the issues before the meeting.

"We have to let the process run its full course. And I think it might be frustrating right now because it's not moving as rapidly as people would wish and I appreciate that frustration," Councilwoman Hardy said.

13 Investigates reached out to the council, interim manager, and finance director for comment on the PD issues.

In regards to pay, manager Garrett said the budget was approved by the council for up to 4% raises for all employees. He says after a review, it was determined that employees would get 2% raises with the opportunity for the additional 2% to be available mid-year.

"It is a matter of opinion that a two percent (2%) raise is a slap in the face, particularly when municipalities elsewhere are making significant budget cuts and foregoing raises or hiring altogether," Garrett said in part.

In response to four police officers possibly leaving the department Garrett said:

This is unfortunate as we value all our officers and employees. Employees seek employment
elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Those who desire to seek employment elsewhere are
certainly free to do so. We wish for all employees to thrive and better themselves at all times,
be that with the City or elsewhere.

Sean Garrett
Interim City Manager

You can read the interim city manager's full statement here.

If you have a tip or lead for our ongoing investigation into the City of Florence, email us at 13Investigates@krdo.com.

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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