By Wyatt Goolsby
ODESSA - How much do you value your Odessa Police Officers? That's what one group was asking West Texans Monday. Members of the Odessa Professional Police Officers Association have been out and about trying to get signatures to support a pay raise for local law enforcement. However, it will take an increase in property tax to get that pay raise.
2,500 signatures - That's how much support is needed to bring the 18 percent increase in police salaries before voters. And while that comes with the property tax, many told NewsWest 9 it will be worth it in the long run.
"We want to take this and put this before the people, let our community that we're sworn to protect and serve, let them decide," said Corporal Terry Mercer, a member of the Professional Police Officers Association.
But members first have to get all the signatures they need, and they'll need several hundred more by February 11th. However, they're not just looking for the 18 percent pay raise.
"Then also, to make our Police Department a better Police Department," said Mercer.
And Corporal Mercer is one of those looking for support. He hopes other benefits for OPD officers will help them to compete with other police stations.
"There again, you're adding incentives to lure people away from other agencies, and I mean, that may sound bad, but what are they doing to our agency, they're making the offer lucrative enough to where there having sign on bonuses, people are joining every day, and our community is the one that suffers," explained Mercer.
Many West Texans NewsWest 9 talked to agreed.
"We can't compete. We don't pay them, we can't compete, and we're not going to get the officers that we need, we're going to be shorthanded," said Lorena Murray, an Odessa resident.
"I support it, I think we need to support our local law enforcement and in comparison with other communities our size in West Texas, I think it's a valid point," added long time Odessa resident Shawn Bell.
But what about the 14 cent property tax increase per every a hundred dollars?
"For what we get in return, as far as making sure that the police come by look at your property, make sure everything's going ok. And for what they do in Odessa, 14 cents is nothing," explained Odessan Sheri Lord.
Ultimately though, supporters of the pay raise said it's up to the voters to decide.
"How fast do you want the officer to respond to your call?," Mercer said. "How fast do you want us to get there on your major accident? Someone breaks into your house. How fast do you think our response should be?"