BEATRICE – Beatrice Police officers and dispatchers were honored with commendations Monday, on a night the city council finalized hourly pay increases designed to stem the flow of department members leaving their jobs with the city.

Officer Tim Price was nominated by his co-workers as Officer of the Year, handling more calls than any other officer last year. Fred Naumann III was nominated as Southeast Communications Center Dispatcher of the year, helping advance the center and train new dispatchers.

Beatrice Police Chief John Hickman says Communications Officer Aaron Benson was honored for an off-duty life-saving effort.  "On February 22nd, 2023, communications officer Aaron Benson was off duty, shopping at Mead Lumber. Another customer collapsed and was unresponsive. Aaron had received life-saving training in his role as a communications officer...and he began administering CPR. He continued this until Sergeant Henning and Beatrice Fire and Rescue arrived. Aaron's immediate action saved the life of the individual, who ultimately came back to the P.D. to thank him for saving his life. We recognize Aaron Benson with the Meritorious Service Award."

Sergeant Wes Henning was recognized for the same life-saving event. Police officer Natasha Nesbitt, a Beatrice Middle School Resource officer, was presented a community service award for her involvement in projects such as the Special Olympics Torch run held Monday night in Beatrice…along with a Special Olympics basketball event and other community campaigns.

Several officers and dispatchers were honored for combining efforts to safely end a stand-off with a suspect in north Beatrice.

"On March 5th, 2023...there was a subject firing a firearm inside Hoyle's RV Park. Patrol officers responded as well as a special response team. They arrived on scene and set up a perimeter to evacuate the surrounding trailers and get everyone out of harm's way. Officer Lauenstein arrived on scene. He is a negotiator for the police department. He was able to begin dialogue with the individual who was barricaded in his RV. He was able to convince the man after some time to come out and surrender to the special response team who was on scene,...providing a peaceful resolution to an extremely dangerous situation. Communications officer Benson and communications officer Walton were instrumental in managing a complex, multi-agency response in a fluid situation, seamlessly. Their efforts were instrumental with proper flow of information which allowed the law enforcement to manage the scene safely. Everyone's efforts reflected well on themselves, as well as the City of Beatrice."

Those honored included Captain Dan Moss, Officers Ethan Jordan, Zach Smith, Tim Price, Shane Mololey, Zack Lauenstein, Ben Morrissey….and communications officers Aaron Benson and Melissa Walton.

Hickman also noted that Police information and systems coordinator Traci Baehr was honored by the Crete Police Department for assisting in managing computer systems and programs. The city of Beatrice dispatches for Crete.

Having lost five officers to other departments or jobs in recent weeks, the Beatrice City Council Monday night approved an amendment to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 84 contract that increases hourly pay for police officers, sergeants and dispatchers.

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer says the current contract stretches over three years. Exit interviews of officers leaving the department cited pay as a main reason why.

"We're not seeing a lot of new people enter into that profession...based on what you see nationally over the last couple of years. You see a big push to gain where officers are accredited already, and having them become lateral hires at other locations. We took a look, and what has been done is to look to raise the wages for dispatchers, officers and sergeants. It comes out to be about an average increase of about $5 for a dispatcher...about $7.50 for an officer and for a sergeant."

The amendment and contract extends through the end of September 2024. The increase takes the place of a cost-of-living increase generally given in the fall.