ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Officers voted on a new collective bargaining agreement with the St. Louis County Police Department this week. Voters approved the new agreement with an 83 percent approval rating.

The new agreement will pay officers more if they have prior experience in other departments all coming at a crucial time to attract officers.

“I would call that we’re in crisis mode at this point with recruitment and retention,” said Joie Patterson, the executive director of the St. Louis County Police Association. “We’re in a situation where we have the funds to fill these positions, but we just don’t have the actual bodies to do it.”

Patterson said this week, the association re-negotiated its work agreement to give a lateral transfer. It means it will recognize prior experience and pay the officers for that experience. Therefore, officers could get paid thousands of dollars more with the county compared to other departments.

“You can leave the city with 20 years experience, and maybe you’re making in the low 60s as far as salary goes,” said Patterson. “You come to the St. Louis County Police Department, and make low to mid-80s with that same experience just for a change of uniform.”

This is putting pressure on other departments, especially the city to keep up with the county.

“I think it’s going to make it tough here. The argument from the POA for a long time is that the officers in St. Louis are drastically underpaid and we keep losing people,” said Jay Schroeder with the St. Louis City Police Officers Association. “I think we’re about 80 so far this year.”

Schroeder said they have good pensions, but will need to push for better pay.

“We have some good benefits on the back end with retirement and stuff,” said Schroeder. “We don’t necessarily have to be $85,000 a year, but we have to be competitive, and right now, we’re not competitive.”

The county council will have to approve the new bargaining agreement, which could happen in the next few weeks. Patterson said even with officers getting paid more, it will not cost taxpayers more.