SEPTA boosts police pay to $62,000 in an effort to improve safety and officer retention

The move is one of many designed to improve safety on the SEPTA system which will see spending on safety efforts increase by 50%.

A SEPTA police officer stands on the platform of the Somerset stop

A SEPTA police officer stands on the platform of the Somerset stop on the Market-Frankford line. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

SEPTA will offer higher salaries to its police officers as part of an effort to improve safety and security on the transit system.

Under the proposal, an officer starting in the academy will get a raise to $56,000 followed by a starting salary of just over $62,000 once they graduate and become a full member of the force.

“We’re at 210 officers. That’s total throughout the department. We’re budgeted for up to 260. And even before the pandemic, we didn’t typically get above about 240,” said SEPTA’s Andrew Busch..

“We’ve made a commitment to increase the numbers of police officers we have out on the system [and] putting more money into salaries we think is going to help us a great deal in both attracting and keeping the officers that we have,” Busch said.

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Veteran members of the force will also see a pay bump, but not as much as the new recruits.

The pay bump breakdown:

  • Starting salary for recruits in the academy goes from $46,534 to $56,507.
  • Once out of the academy on regular duty, pay had been $49,858, it’s now $62,379.
  • After one year, pay had been $53,186, it will now be $71,011.
  • After two years, pay which was $56,514, will go to $74,589.
  • The top rate will increase from its previous $74,589, to top out at $82,285 after 25 years, with step increases over the course of those 25 years.

The time between seniority or step increases has also been shortened under the new deal to give those with years of service a shorter time to reach the top of the pay scale.

Spending on safety and security will go up by about 50% for the agency in the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Busch said SEPTA believes the tangible spending increase should be a sign to riders that they want to make sure mass transit is able to move them safely throughout the region.

“They understand that we’re committed to providing a safe and secure travel environment for them, and they have confidence in going back to something,” Busch said. “This is part of an overall increase in safety and security money being spent.”

The agreement was worked out by SEPTA with the Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109, which represents the officers. The deal came while the union was still under its contract with SEPTA which runs until 2023.

Busch said the goal is to hire and keep officers on a force that has not been able to maintain staffing at the levels budgeted by the transit agency. SEPTA is also in the process of adding social workers and other non-police security ambassadors to their effort to keep the transit system safe.

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City Councilman David Oh had threatened to take away $10 million from SEPTA as part of the city budget. He has officially withdrawn that amendment as part of the budget process.

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