Police chief says request for increase was no joke

June 16, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

After nearly six years as Taneytown's police chief, Melvin Diggs doesn't kid around when it comes to police work.

So he couldn't understand it when the city government thought his request for a 10 percent pay raise was a joke.

"It certainly was not a joke," Chief Diggs told the council in a meeting Monday night. He tried unsuccessfully to squelch the anger in his voice.

"I have spent the last few years fighting for raises for my men, and now I am talking about something for me," he said.

Mr. Diggs submitted a budget request for his department in May. At the bottom of the memo he had written in a request for the raise in his $29,686 salary.

But City Manager John L. Kendall said he thought the request had been made in jest.

"He comes in, smiling, and hands it to me and says, 'Oh, by the way, I want a 10 percent raise for myself,' " Mr. Kendall said, apologetically. "He just handed in the memorandum and written on the bottom was 'I recommend a 10 percent raise for myself.' I saw it and just laughed about it."

"The whole thing was handwritten," Chief Diggs said Tuesday. "I have no idea why they thought it was a joke.

"In 5 1/2 years, I've only gotten the cost-of-living raises, just like everybody else. I've gotten raises that don't amount to $5,000 over the last five years."

Mayor Henry I. Reindollar Jr. said Tuesday that, while officials did not mean to insult Chief Diggs, the city is not in the position to consider what would amount to a nearly $3,000 raise.

"I'm sorry, but we are a small municipality and we don't generally give that kind of a raise," the mayor said. "We can't afford it."

In his budget request, Chief Diggs also asked that Patrolmen Edward Engel and Paul Wingate be promoted to Patrolman First Class. The council approved those requests, and both men will receive their promotions beginning July 1.

"For years, I basically fought for my people's benefits, so I could stabilize this department and keep people here," Chief Diggs said. "When some of our good officers could go to other agencies, I wanted to give them a reason to stay here.

"Because I did that, I thought maybe this time I could get a raise for myself."

The chief did get a raise, albeit smaller than the one he requested.

As a result of the City Council's approval Monday of a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and a new salary plan that gives incremental increases to the 17 city employees, Chief Diggs will be making $30,382 starting July 1.

But once again, said Chief Diggs, he has gotten the same incremental raise that everyone else has -- nothing that would indicate appreciation of his performance.

"I think that at least they could have put me up to the next step. I mean, it really didn't matter how much money, but it would show me a little consideration," he said.

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