The Winnipeg Police Association is defending a wage hike for its members, at a time when other public-sector workers in Manitoba are being asked to take a freeze.

An arbitration panel has awarded police and civilian staff pay increases of 4.5 per cent for 2011 and four per cent for this year.

The police union had been seeking almost six per cent each year. The city offered less than four per cent each year.

Police association president Mike Sutherland says even with the raise, officers in Winnipeg still make less than their counterparts in Calgary and Edmonton.

"In Winnipeg in particular — one of the most violent, if not the most violent city in western Canada — our officers work longer hours and are paid less," Sutherland said Tuesday.

The average Winnipeg officer's salary is about $81,000 a year, including overtime, he said.

As for the pay freeze other employees face, Sutherland said police officers cannot be compared to other public-sector workers.

"The fact of the matter is that police compare to police," he said.

"When you compare police salaries across Canada, Winnipeg still — after these wage increases — does lag behind."