Police Officer Staffing Levels

By December 2020: Public Safety staffing levels will be at 95% filled

Description:

This strategic result focuses on the efforts the Police Department is investing into recruiting and retaining the high- performing police professionals the City demands with the goal of maintaining staffing levels at 95% or higher on an ongoing basis. The City currently has 191 police officer positions. Maintaining a staffing level of 95% requires 182 of the positions be filled.

Significance:

According to Police Research Forum, fewer people are applying to become police officers, and more people are leaving the profession, often after only a few years on the job. These trends are occurring even as many police and sheriffs’ offices are already short-staffed and facing challenges in developing a diverse workforce. The workforce crisis is affecting law enforcement agencies of all sizes and types -- large, medium, and small; local, state, and federal. And it is hitting departments in all parts of the country. 

There are ominous signs that the workforce crisis in policing may be getting worse. Traditional sources of job applicants including the military and family members of current officers are diminishing. A robust economy and strong job growth are creating more options for people entering the labor market, so police agencies are facing more competition. And the often rigid, quasi-military organizational structure of most police agencies does not align with the preferences of many of today’s job applicants.

An important issue complicating the situation is the fact that the work of policing itself is changing. The work of police officers is becoming more challenging. Criminal offenders are committing new types of cyber-crime and are using computers to commit old types of crime in new ways. Officers must understand and be comfortable with new technologies. Furthermore, today’s police officers are increasingly being asked to deal with social problems, such as untreated mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness. As a result, the skills, temperament, and life experiences needed to succeed as an officer are becoming more complex. 

Lastly, the civil unrest that occurred in 2020 may also impact the size of our candidate pool moving forward.


Analysis:

As of the end of 2020, this strategic result was complete. The Police Department was fully staffed with some minor fluctuations and was above the 95% in 2021. The following is a list of projects and initiatives that played a significant role in achieving this strategic result:

  • Built Blue recruitment campaign - expanding in 2021
  • Enhanced hiring procedures allow faster onboarding of officers
  • Competitive pay, benefits, and overall compensation package
  • Altered procedures for social distancing allowed continued hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic

While this strategic result was complete in December 2020, the events that occurred in 2021 did generate an additional wave of retirements and experienced police officers leaving the law enforcement profession. The City team and the Police Department is working on retention and recruitment strategies to address the current 16% vacancy among sworn positions.