Local risk takers go unrewarded

Published 12:21 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

Big risks often result in big rewards. But like beauty, the amount of acceptable risk is in the eye of the risk taker.

What’s considered mild by one person may be considered insane to another.

And spectators love watching risk-takers, living vicariously through their braveness or insanity, depending upon one’s perspective.

In fact, one of the nation’s most popular TV shows is Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch.”

The show follows crews of Alaskan crab fishermen as they fight the elements of the Bering Sea.

High injury and death rates apparently make the occupation the most risky in the world.

But if you learn a bit about crab fishing, you can understand why people continue to put themselves at great danger — quick cash and lots of it.

Some of the deck hands can make $40,000 to $50,000 for just a few weeks of work.

Big rewards for big risks.

In contrast, looking more locally, we see a number of folks who also take big risks each and every day, but for much, much less reward.

This past week an unfortunate incident brought that to light, as a Natchez Police officer’s apartment door was intentionally set ablaze.

A reader called me and left a message about how disgusted he was that Natchez Police — and other area public safety workers — are paid so poorly.

The issue has come up over and over again, but little seems to get done. Last year, Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins tried to lobby for increased officer pay.

At $24,000 for a starting officer, NPD patrol officers are putting their life on the line for approximately $92 per day.

That’s approximately 30 minutes of work for an Alaskan crab fishermen. Obviously the risk is a bit higher, but police officers still put their lives on the line each and every day.

By comparison, Natchez aldermen — despite cutting their own pay last year — are still earning $22,300 per year.

That’s an excellent part-time job. It’s almost as lucrative as Alaskan crab fishing.

Breaking it down by the number of official city meetings — not including special meetings or work sessions — aldermen make a nice haul.

At two regular meetings each month, their annual pay equates to approximately $929 per meeting.

Somehow that just doesn’t seem fair to me.

Of course, if the City of Natchez was flying high and money were rolling in, public projects happening flawlessly, perhaps it would be less of a concern.

But it’s troubling to think that the men and women of our police and fire departments are dealing with real threats and real dangers, and yet we invest so little into their compensation.

This Memorial Day weekend, as our nation pauses to remember those who died in our nation’s service, we should also remember the living a bit, too.

Each day police and fire personnel are putting their lives — and as last week’s arson proved, the lives of their families, too — on the line for us.

Isn’t it about time we start returning the favor and providing a greater reward for all the risks they take on our behalf?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.