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Looking for a few good officers

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The Glenwood Springs Police Department, like many other employers in the area, is having trouble hiring and retaining staff.Right now, the department is four officers below what’s in the budget, Lieutenant Bill Kimminau said. Staffing has always been an issue for the 22 years he’s been with the department, although it seems to have gotten worse lately.”It’s a constant battle,” he said. “I think there was once since I’ve been here, for a day or two, we were at full staff.”When he applied for the job, there were about 30 or 40 people trying for one position. Now there are about five or six people applying for four open positions. The standard in recent years has been to be about two or three officers short staffed at any given time, Kimminau said.He said there are many factors creating the staffing difficulties, including the high price of living, the pay and competition from the private sector.”We’re always trying to get approval for more officers because things just keep growing,” he said, adding that increasing population and development generate more area to cover and more calls.Police Chief Terry Wilson said fewer people are applying to law enforcement and public safety types of jobs nationwide, but the problem is exacerbated here by things like the high cost of living and housing.The GSPD was testing potential officers Friday and Saturday. After basic training at an academy officers must pass a written aptitude test and a physical agility test. On Friday, two of four applicants showed up, and one of those failed the written test.The pay of a little more than $39,000 a year for a starting officer is competitive for the area, Kimminau said, but an officer could make more in Denver. And find a cheaper place to live.”A lot of our guys live west of here,” he said. “They can’t afford to buy a house here, or rent.”The end result of being short staffed is cutting down on services. Officers have to prioritize calls and don’t have time for certain tasks that used to be performed.”Our traffic enforcement suffers,” Kimminau said. “You’re more reactive than you are proactive because you’re just running from call to call.”A few years ago, the department switched from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.”We started 12-hour shifts a few years ago because we were short staffed then, and it takes so much more manpower to run an eight-hour shift.”The GSPD has 22 officers right now with a total of 26 in the budget. Officers work shifts running either from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. There’s typically a sergeant and three patrolling officers on for a shift, but Kimminau would like to see a sergeant and four patrolling officers on for one shift.Officers alternate between working three days a week and working four days a week. As it stands now, officers are pretty much invited to come in and get some overtime.The effects of being short staffed during a busy summer definitely has an effect.”They’re getting tired, but they’re a good group of people and they just keep doing it,” Kimminau said. “With the shooting it’s been non-stop since Sunday night.”Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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