Columbus still working to address officer shortage - WRBL

Columbus still working to address officer shortage

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The "Join the Force for Good" hiring campaign began earlier this year in an effort to fill the officer vacancies. Numbers show that there is actually one less officer with the department than when the campaign began a few months ago. The "Join the Force for Good" hiring campaign began earlier this year in an effort to fill the officer vacancies. Numbers show that there is actually one less officer with the department than when the campaign began a few months ago.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says the city is 34 police officers short of how many they would like to have on the force. The city still faces challenges filling those vacancies despite an officer hiring campaign.

The "Join the Force for Good" hiring campaign began earlier this year in an effort to fill the officer vacancies. Numbers show that there is actually one less officer with the department than when the campaign began a few months ago. In February, the department had 455 officers. As of July 10th, the department has 454 officers.

However, Mayor Tomlinson says she is optimistic about the campaign because it’s led to an increase of new police officer hires. The reason the overall number hasn’t changed much is because of the ongoing issue of officers leaving.

“The 'Join the Force for Good' campaign hasn't made a net increase, but it has helped us keep ground with the wave of retirements we’ve seen,” said Tomlinson.

Along with retirements, the mayor says officers have been leaving to pursue another career, go work for another agency or because their family is moving out of the area. But the biggest area of attrition comes when officers leave during the training process. Many potential officers don't pass training, fail background checks or decide to drop out.

Mayor Tomlinson says the high turnover in the training phase has led to an evaluation of the process. Training officer that don't stay with the department can be quite expensive as it costs about $50,000 to train each police officer.

She hopes they can improve the ways they approach finding and training officers.

“If we could call down to just those candidates that we believe have a high propensity to be long time officers, we would be saving a ton of money,” said Tomlinson.

The mayor says one solution may be a newly formed committee called the Commission for Retention and Longevity. The goal of the group is to get law enforcement officials together and take a look at the recruiting, training and retention processes. She hopes the group can get together and figure out ways to get more officers to stay in Columbus.

Since 2008, the city has budgeted for 488 officers. The mayor tells us the city has never been able to reach that full 488.

The mayor says the officer recruiting campaign does not cost tax payers much money. She says most of the expenses have been donated.

David Hurst

David Hurst, a graduate of the Univ. of Georgia, focuses on how your tax dollars are being spent.
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