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Atwater leaders OK pay raise for police chief

The Atwater City Council approved a pay raise for the city’s Police Chief Michael Salvador on Monday night.
The Atwater City Council approved a pay raise for the city’s Police Chief Michael Salvador on Monday night.

The Atwater City Council unanimously approved a 7 percent increase in pay for Police Chief Michael Salvador’s employment agreement during their regular meeting Monday night.

The increase, which raises the chief’s pay to $185,000 per year, was part of a renewal of the police chief’s expiring contract.

“Chief has brought a level of professionalism to our police department that we can all be proud of, and I think our community can be proud of as well,” said City Manager Lori Waterman.

Chief Salvador has served Atwater in its top law enforcement position since February 2019. Salvador was hired by the city following a controversial departure of previous Police Chief Samuel Joseph. Since joining, Chief Salvador has made efforts to bridge the relationship between the department and the community. The chief addressed some of these concerns during the council meeting after Mayor Mike Nelson made a proclamation for National Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week.

“The profession has taken a lot of hits over the last three years, and some of them probably warranted, some of them not so much,” Salvador said. “And with that, we will face the challenges of that in the future. What I’m trying to do here is build a police department that you can all be proud of.”

Individuals in attendance at the City Council meeting provided mixed reactions to the pay increase.

“I’m so happy that the city has enough funds for such a generous salary for our police chief,” said Atwater resident Linda Dash during the time for public comment. She followed with an expression of hope that similar generosity will be extended to lower ranking officers. “What’s good for the chief is good for the troops.”

“You get what you pay for, and we’re making investments in the city of Atwater,” said resident Gabe Santos.

Former Atwater Mayor Jim Price voiced concerns that the pay increase was excessive and questioned if it was deserved, expressing doubts about Salvador’s performance.

“We are at critical staffing levels,” Price pointed out. “We have no volunteer force, we’ve got several unsolved murders, and still we’re going to reward this?”

After public comments had concluded, City Manager Lori Waterman reassured that the pay increase figure for the police chief came from an analysis of surrounding areas and was appropriate.
“This salary is still below the ninety percent median for a police chief,” Waterman said. “We are not rewarding. We are moving the city forward in what the community expects of our law enforcement.”

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