Both the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office made new hires this week as they attempt to keep up their staffing levels.
The Sheriff’s Office started the week with 12 vacancies and swore in 10 new deputies on Monday. But the new hires still have to attend the Basic Law Enforcement Academy and complete in-car training before they can patrol on their own, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory.
The academy and training usually takes a year, and there’s no guarantee that everyone who starts the basic academy will complete it, he said.
“We’re trying to get caught up and get to full strength,” Gregory said.
Full strength for the Sheriff’s Office is 227 commissioned deputies, which includes the sheriff. Gregory points out that the number is well below the 249 commissioned deputies the department had in 2009 before the troubled economy led to staffing cuts.
The Spokane Police Department on Monday swore in 10 new officers who also have a year of training to complete. Five of those officers are part of the department’s “hire ahead” program to get new recruits into the pipeline to replace officers as they retire instead of waiting until after retirements have already happened, said police spokeswoman Officer Teresa Fuller.
The department is authorized to have 311 commissioned officers. It hired six officers in October. Fuller said the department needs to keep new recruits coming.
“We are seeing a number of retirements,” she said. “I think we will continue to see this amount of hiring.”
But even when the department is fully staffed, as it is now, that doesn’t mean the maximum number of officers are on the street, Fuller said.
“We’ve got people on light duty and off on injury,” she said.
Most law enforcement agencies are having trouble attracting qualified candidates, Gregory said. When he started his law enforcement career 22 years ago it was common for agencies to get 400 to 500 applications at a time. Now, the sheriff’s office is lucky to get 100, Gregory said.
He attributes some of that to the negative public perception of police officers that has been increasing in recent years.
“I think the climate’s different,” he said. “I think it tips the maybes to where they may not apply.”
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