City officials speak to officer shortage at the Jonesboro Police Department

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
Published: Apr. 21, 2016 at 3:15 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2016 at 3:21 AM CDT
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(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Police Department needs to fill approximately 15 positions.

Right now, there are also a handful of officers on either medical, military or family leave.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott estimated that the department is about 20 officers short right now.

Wednesday, he spoke with Region 8 News about how it's affecting the department.

"It makes the shifts run at bare minimum," Chief Elliott said. "Therefore, the calls for service may be a little bit slower but it still hasn't got to the critical point yet."

Even so, it's putting a strain on officers.

"It causes officers to have to be a little bit more busy than normal. Sometimes it causes them to maybe have to come in and maybe work overtime to fill in slots," Chief Elliott said.

Right now, the department is interviewing potential officers to send through law enforcement training.

They'll start academy on May 15. Later that month, the department will test for more officers to send to training academy in the fall.

Meanwhile, city officials say the reason officers are leaving doesn't always boil down to pay.

"Everyone wants to make more money," Mayor Harold Perrin said. "But I don't think that's the common denominator of why these folks left."

According to Chief Elliott, five of the 15 officers that have left said pay was the reason.

Some went to other departments. Chief Elliott said sometimes officers will make more money when they start at another department, but some will take an initial pay cut in the move.

Mayor Perrin said he feels Jonesboro offers officers good incentives.

"I've always said you've gotta look at the total package, total compensation on that," Mayor Perrin said. "We just got through with adding longevity. We have take-home cars. We've got a lot of things here that I think other cities probably don't have."

As for the rest who quit, a few officers simply decided policing was not for them.

Chief Elliott said they are starting to think outside the box when it comes to recruiting for their replacements.

"You look across the country at what's going on in the law enforcement profession and finding good applicants, everywhere it's a big problem." Chief Elliott said. "Getting someone to apply for the job, who's interested in the job that wants to stay with the job, they're becoming fewer and farther between."

Earlier this year, a new employee pay plan was implemented for all city employees. It addressed issues of salary, compression and longevity. Incentive plans for non-uniform employees is still being discussed.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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