Sallie Clark's Blog: The Mayor's Role in Crime and Correlation – Retention and Recruitment
We see it in the headlines and we see it in our neighborhoods; rising crime, murders, out-of-control auto thefts and abandoned cars, porch pirates and more. All you have to do is log in to Nextdoor.com and it’s evident our citizens are worried. Our community deserves to be safe and having a properly staffed police department is key.
Currently, the city is approved for 821 officers, yet of those positions, according to Colorado Springs Police Department as of February 2, 2023, there are 61 or 7% vacancies which doesn’t account for those on medical leave. With an attrition rate of 9.5% per year since 2018, we will never close the gap. In dispatch, the numbers are even worse. Of the 107.5 authorized, only 79 are filled with a 27% staffing shortage. No wonder we’re experiencing long wait times to report crimes and 9-1-1 dispatchers are overloaded with emergency calls and working overtime hours in a difficult job. These staffing issues have reached a critical stage.
According to the Colorado Springs Police Chief’s presentation to City Council in September of 2022, since 2018, murders have increased by 45.5%, robberies 23.6% and aggravated assault 19.8%, in the crimes against person category over the last four years. Motor vehicle thefts have increased by 28% since 2018. And in a recent presentation by 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, only 8% of motor vehicle thefts are ever solved. As a community, we have to ask, is this trend ok? My answer is absolutely and unequivocally, NO.
So, what is our initial step to address the rise in crime? One of my first priorities will be to engage our existing police department, learn what has been tried, and initiate new efforts. Supporting our first responders is vital, for without retention and recruitment, this will be an ongoing challenge. In addition, the recent loss of qualified immunity places officers in a position of personal liability coverage for up to 25,000 per incident and while the city discussed providing gap insurance, it’s unclear whether the mayor and council have followed through on this commitment.
Fostering an ethical, diverse, and thriving police department will help us recruit and retain officers. One of the best sources of recruitment is other officers. We must consider bonuses for officers who recruit peers, retention incentives, competitive pay, and benefits in line with comparable cities, continuing education, career development, and promotional opportunities. We will ensure that officers are supported by highly trained front-line supervisors, their chain of command, city council, and the Mayor. We will review and adopt successful strategies other police departments have used to recruit and retain officers.
We can look to other cities that have engaged recruitment experts to recruit and retain law enforcement personnel. According to an article by Bloomberg Cities, which states, “New work, from Chattanooga, Tenn., and San José, Calif. is showing that police departments can address both challenges by changing how they market the job to potential recruits, especially if they focus on attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds. Both cities, members of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative, have partnered with The Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), a government unit dedicated to behavioral science, to transform their outreach and recruitment strategy…”
Longer term, we will grow our own workforce through community outreach and ensure that we pursue state and federal grants like Colorado’s “Law Enforcement Workforce Grants” program. This will assist our police department by leveraging city dollars to expand recruitment efforts, employ new techniques, training, technology, and funding opportunities to keep good employees and fill the current and future gap.
Public Safety has always been my number one priority. As Mayor, I’ll be the catalyst to develop citizen tools to report crimes more easily and promote community engagement. Let’s work together, with law enforcement, with neighborhoods, with first responders, with nonprofit organizations and with city government, looking for new ways to reduce crime, retain, recruit, and create community. It’s the safest thing to do.