CPD adjusts to police officers on military leave

More CPD officers were deployed this year than in previous years.

Police officers on military leave sometimes affect a department's budget and employment positions.

When officers are called for military leave, they are not only leaving their lifestyle and environment but also are temporarily leaving their positions as law enforcement officers.

According to the Columbia Code of Ordinances on military leave, officers who complete more than 180 days of military service in the reserves or National Guard must apply for re-employment within 90 days of their release in order to return to city employment.

"Some (officers) are gone for 60 days or so," MU Police Department Capt. Brian Weimer said. "It is their personal choice, and it is not encouraged or discouraged."

Weimer said though there are no officers on leave currently, MUPD has had officers on military leave who have kept their positions while they were gone.

There are five CPD officers deployed on military leave, which CPD spokeswoman Jessie Haden said is an increase from previous years.

CPD Sgt. Will Green said he knows what it is like to be on military leave and how much of an adjustment it can be for officers. After being deployed to Afghanistan, Green said he understood the difference between working at the police department and working in the military.

"You always had someone above you," Green said. "When someone told you to do something, it happened right away."

While on leave, Green understood the effects that being away from home had on others in the military.

"I had to stop thinking about my family as much," Green said. "Because (other officers) who did got homesick."

While officers are gone, the police department generally does a military over hire, which allows officers to come in as full-time permanent employees, Haden said. The process calls for allocation of a new position through the department, which requires a substantial budget adjustment.

"Say an officer is deployed for 18 months," Haden said. "We'll ask for officers while they are deployed and put additional officers on staff."

Due to the economy and budget, CPD has to reduce the number of added officers.

Officers on leave for less than 180 days still have regulations, the ordinance states. If they are on duty for less than 31 days, they must return to work on the next scheduled workday but are granted allowances for safe travel time, as well as eight hours of rest.

Those on military leave for 31 to 180 days must notify the city within 14 days of release if they want to return to work, the ordinance states. When they return, officers are given the same pay and status as before they left.

Weimer said an officer's decision to join the military is independent from the department. Haden said military officers are beneficial to the police department.

"Folks in military can bring knowledge of skills and have technical training," Haden said.

Green said when he returned home, he began to value his life and daily luxuries, such as having a kitchen to cook in and taking a shower without a time limit.

"I forgot what those conveniences were like," Green said. "It makes you appreciate what you have."

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