Crisis at WMPD: Officers Leave Due to Poor Pay and Benefits

Photo via Wilton Manors Police Department, Facebook.

Wilton Manors budgets for 32 sworn officers on the police force. By early summer, up to a third of those positions could be open. Chief Gary Blocker brought the crisis to the attention of the city commission and residents at the start of the City Commission meeting on April 23.

“We currently have seven police officer vacancies and two more coming in the coming weeks and months,” Blocker said.

The city went into a closed-door executive session to crunch numbers and discuss strategies. The result will likely be the third contract negotiation in only 19 months.

Why are they leaving? Why are contracts seemingly always in a state of flux? The answer to these and most other questions is the same: money.

OutSFL obtained six recent exit interviews from WMPD. Half cite pay and benefits as their primary reason for leaving. Combined, they represent more than 43 years of experience walking out the door.

Perpetual Negotiation

The city reopened a previous contract in autumn of 2022 to give a raise for the last year of that deal. The unofficial motivation was backlash from when the mayor and city commissioners gave themselves substantial raises.

The ink was barely dry on that agreement before it was time for the city and union, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), to start work on a new three-year contract. That deal wasn’t finished until December 2023.

Now, the work resumes well before anyone anticipated. Three contract negotiations in such a truncated time frame indicates the issue has never really been resolved.

‘Enough’s Enough’

The city insists it’s always negotiated in good faith. In the most recent round of bargaining, they made it a point to get the department in the top half of pay in Broward County.

But thus far it appears to be too little too late.

“The [officers have] already lost faith in the city and the powers that be,” one person familiar with the situation told OutSFL. OutSFL is keeping their name anonymous so they felt they could speak freely. “What they want is to be made whole.”

From the officers’ perspective, being “made whole” entails retention bonuses and major changes to the pay schedule. The current contract includes a “step” program, with bonuses starting at 10 years. Some inside the PBA believe the city likes the 10-year plan because rapid retention means they will rarely pay out bonuses.

All Work, All the Time

Blocker insists that the city will still be the safe destination it is now. “I’m here to inform our commission and our community about staffing our police department. I want to assure our community we continue to provide services, and we will be able to provide these through our professionals in blue. Wilton Manors remains a safe city, thanks to the professionals of our police department.”

But that comes with a cost, a cost that money cannot buy. The current contract increased the amount of vacation and sick time officers can accrue. They like that because when they leave, they can cash out with a substantial check.

The downside can be a faster burnout rate. Vacation and sick time are important for mental health, even more so in a high intensity job.

With so many vacancies, overtime is given. However, remaining officers still have lives to lead, their kids’ birthday parties and soccer games to attend and vacations to take. Plus, like everyone at some point, they’ll need a “mental health” day.

“We believe [our officers’] health and safety will ensure our island city community will be healthy and safe,” Blocker said.

Officers inside the department agree that Blocker is aware of the stress and advocates for them. But one told OutSFL, he has no idea what will happen when an officer is too exhausted and refuses to pick up an extra shift during the staffing shortfall.

“I’m concerned with mental health and overworking the employees. I’m concerned they’re trying to plug holes with bubble gum,” one person told OutSFL.

Northern Exposure

Wilton isn’t the only municipality being pilfered. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is reportedly losing 88 officers, and Fort Lauderdale PD is also losing significant membership, according to sources close to their situations.

Their main destination appears to be Palm Beach County. Officers report aggressive recruiting, with the main attraction being a lot more money. “PBSO supports its staff and is a ‘destination’ department,” one source told OutSFL.

One person inside City Hall put it bluntly, saying, “The city needs to come up with a major contingency plan that they can sustain, and it won’t be on the back of these officers. Other agencies know the caliber of our officers.”


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



Got a juicy lead or story idea? Let us know!



Out South Florida

Hello from OutSFL! We hope you'll consider donating to us. Starting a business can be a scary prospect, but with your support so far, we've had tremendous success. Thank you!

donate button