This is a major nationwide problems, and cities, counties, and states should allocate money toward fixing it. Make it a priority. The system is so screwed up that, for several reasons, it has affected the front line of defense against crime: our police. READ It is a tough time to be a cop
Is this a crisis yet? Maybe. There is much more to this article. If you’re interested in safety, open it up and read it.
Increase pay and benefits
Provide bonuses to make it worthwhile to stay; a 5 year bonus, a 10 year bonus
Become increasingly involved in community affairs – mix and mingle with those they serve.
Target minorities as employees
Excerpts from the Article:
Officer Kyle Borden steered his black-and-white patrol car onto U.S. 13 and cruised past the farmers market before darting in and out of New Castle neighborhoods. The young cop, with only two years on the job, was the only officer that night patrolling the streets, covering the city’s 5,500 residents. The City of New Castle has 18 positions for police officers, but rarely are they all filled. Well-paying jobs sit open for months, waiting for qualified and willing candidates. Even when jobs are filled, turnover remains high as officers leapfrog to larger departments.
“Now, we’re all competing for the same person,” New Castle’s Chief Richard McCabe said. “And small guys like us are losing.”
Delaware’s police departments are struggling to stay fully-staffed amid a growing state population. Understaffed departments are leading to fewer patrols and slower response times in some towns.
In an era in which police are highly scrutinized and the profession is easily tainted by a few bad cops, police agencies across the nation are struggling to fill their ranks.
Delaware has 46 police departments, and most of them have fewer than 50 officers. Only five police departments — Delaware State Police, New Castle County, Wilmington, Dover and Newark — have bigger forces. Over the past few years, the smaller departments have seen a declining interest in police work and have struggled to lure experienced cops with the salaries they offer. Even when small stations hire a fresh face, they bear a high cost of putting them through seven months at the police academy and three months of field training. And within a few years, many of those rookies are lured away by larger agencies.
For Borden, becoming a cop came with its difficulties. He feels constant pressure that everything he does reflects on his badge. Borden doesn’t feel like he can stop being an officer when he gets off work, and because of that, he has lost friends along the way.
Borden is thankful New Castle took a chance on him and likes getting to know the community he protects. But, he also realizes there are opportunities he is missing out on, including more training and more specialized work. “At some point, it might weigh on me more, but positives outweigh the negatives for me now,” he said.
The City of New Castle currently has three of its 18 positions vacant. One job posting for more than $50,000 has been open for four months. “It’s horrible,” New Castle’s Chief Richard McCabe said. “We can’t find people who want to do this for a living anymore.”
In the suburban and university town of Newark, interest in police jobs has been erratic. In 2010, the department received 162 applicants for five positions. By 2016, that number dropped to 58 applicants for six spots. Between retirements and resignations, the department has not been fully-staffed in years, Lt. Andrew Rubin said. “We lose people, and we’re running short,” he said. “We are constantly playing catch-up.”
No department is immune to public backlash after cell phone videos of aggressive police interactions surface.
In South Bethany, all but one of the police department’s officers deserted the Sussex County station about a month ago, leaving Sgt. Patrick Wiley to man a town of 1,400 homes. Much of South Bethany’s homes are seasonal, so Wiley hopes they hire at least a police chief before the summer months hit. The department has two officers in training and is hiring for two remaining positions.
Pay is a big part of retaining officers in small towns, said Von Goerres, who retired from the state police after 30 years. Without his state pension, he couldn’t live on the salary provided by the town, he said. “A young person couldn’t live alone on this,” Von Goerres said.
Milford faces a pressing population increase, at an estimated 130 new homes each year, Mayor Campbell said. The current size of his department cannot effectively handle the increased crime a bigger town brings, he said. “With the growth we are having in Milford, I’m hurting for police officers,” Campbell said. Milford was approved for five more officers last year. They once had around 100 applications for a spot, but these days they get about 30, said Mayor Archie Campbell.
The process to become a police officer is long and intensive. It can take two years before a candidate can hit the streets as a patrol officer.
Paying a candidate’s salary and benefits through the academy and field training can cost departments around $90,000 per officer. That’s a risky investment for smaller departments knowing fresh graduates can leave as soon as a year after finishing the academy.
The path to becoming an officer includes:
A several month-long interview process
A physical fitness test
An aptitude test
An extensive background check, where the department interviews families, schools, and anyone the candidate had relationships with
an interview with the chief
Then, those accepted head to academy.
The academy includes about seven months of classroom work, while recruits face military boot camp-like training. Graduates then have three months of field training, before they are on the streets by themselves.
“From the day we hired you, you aren’t beneficial to us for a while,” Lt. Andrew Rubin of Newark police said. Delaware law requires a recruit to work two years at the police department sponsoring them, but that’s not enough time for smaller departments to feel like that burden is worth it.
Including ten months of training, the two-year agreement hardly makes sense for small departments, said Chief Lisa Giles of Elsmere police. Elsmere and a few other departments like Delaware City and Middletown now require potential recruits to sign a 5-year agreement.
It’s common for officers at smaller departments to move to large departments like Wilmington, New Castle County and the state police after a few years. The tug of a bigger salary, better benefits, better retirement plans and specialized fields draw them in. A small-town officer could see a salary increase of more than 60 percent at the larger agencies.
Wilmington police recently began its 99th academy with fewer applicants than they hoped. City councilman, Bob Williams, a former Wilmington cop, said the 179 applicants received this year is a dramatic reduction from the 800 applicants when he applied 20 years ago.
More than 63 percent of departments across the country reported a decrease in job candidates, according to a Police Executive Research Forum survey reports.
Agencies are using trial and error tactics to get more badges on the street. Most of the ideas include incentives like signing or academy graduation bonus, while others offer support outside of work with housing, childcare or relocation assistance.
Some have reduced education requirements. Horvath of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council agrees that agencies in the state could ease educational standards. Having a college degree doesn’t equate to being a good cop. “It’s a job that requires a high degree of integrity and a lot of common sense,” Horvath said.
In Delaware police chief meetings, they are trying to figure out how to make the best with the current situation. Chiefs share information about good applicants, and have talked about creating an applicant pool for smaller police departments, Horvath said. Someone who applied to Middletown but didn’t make the cut could be a good candidate for Elsmere.
A proven source to find candidates is through a summer police program. Seasonal help has brought younger candidates into smaller departments, McCabe said. The seasonal hires work the summer months walking or biking around, handing out citations, checking out suspicious activity, and investigating complaints. Police chiefs encourage anyone considering the job to test it out for summer.