Law enforcement excellence comes with a price tag

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With the increase in weekend tourist traffic, police presence in the city has expanded under chief John Miller. The department currently staffs 11 full time officers. Miller gave an informational presentation to the council on Tuesday, May 15 on the costs and challenges of hiring reinforcements.

The police department spends significant resources hiring officers, especially if it is their first law enforcement job, which could prove futile when bigger departments can offer a higher paycheck.

“Retention is a huge issue,” said Miller, “It’s actually a crisis, it’s a serious issue with our economy booming.”

The requirements for applicants include reading and writing tests, an oral interview, a 60-page background investigation, a medical and psychological evaluation and a polygraph test.

According to Miller, dishonesty on the background investigation or a failure on the polygraph “permanently taints the candidate.”

The department pays $1500 for private contract background investigations, part of the $2449 cost associated in considering a new hire. If the candidate passes, outfitting the new officer will run an additional $7,100.

“We’re already $10,000 into hiring a new police officer,” said Miller.

New officers have 16-20 weeks with their Field Training Officer, then begin a 12-18 month probationary period before becoming a complete fixture of the department.

“Once you hit that 18 months, they’re marketable,” said Miller.

Today, according to Miller, there are 221 total agencies looking for new officers on the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training website. For contrast, in November 2011, only eight agencies were searching for new officers.

“Competition equals compensation,” said Miller, explaining the need to pay officers higher wages.

One way Miller seeks to mitigate retention is by offering his officers a unique experience working in the department.

“We need to create opportunities for them, like specialized jobs,” said Miller.

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