A police officer shortage and plans to further a Mediation Task Force for the Columbia Police Department were discussed at Wednesday night’s Citizen’s Police Review Board meeting.
Sgt. Chad Craig, supervisor of the CPD Training and Recruiting Unit, and Sgt. Paul Dickinson of the CPD Internal Affairs Division, explained to the board why the department seems to be experiencing an officer shortage.
“People think that CPD needs more officers, but the problem is that we can’t hire more police officers,” Dickinson said.
Craig explained the difficulties of finding enough recruits and filtering them through the necessary training and evaluation processes.
“We’ve lost many recruits and officers to federal jobs,” Craig said. “That’s our biggest competition … right now we need about 30 more officers.”
Dickinson said that a drop program is in place to try to convince officers hoping to retire to stay on a little longer. The program offers officers who stay on five years after retirement the opportunity to earn more pension money.
Dickinson said the department is desperate to keep its experienced personnel.
Craig said Columbia police hire between nine and 12 officers and lose about one each year.
“We have about half the number of police officers compared to other cities of similar population,” board member Stephen Alexander said. “We have about 150 sworn officers.”
Craig said the shortage is not without efforts to bring more recruits. Craig visits the training academies and universities with each new class to advertise to possible recruits, and he is trying to expand the training programs the department has in place.
Mediation Task Force
The board also discussed its goal to establish a Mediation Task Force for the department, despite a mishap concerning the search for a mediator. Board member Betty Wilson said the proposal for a pilot program was approved a long time ago.
The board was surprised when no one came forward during its search for a trained mediator. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that requests had not been sent to viable candidates.
“The request for individuals interested was sent out by the purchasing department, but it didn’t seem to have much relevance,” Wilson said.
While the board wanted requests to reach institutions such as law schools, bar associations or circuit court mediation, the list the purchasing department compiled consisted mostly of out-of-state businesses such as home improvement stores in California.
“We’re going to reissue it and see that it goes out to relevant candidates,” Wilson said.