Springfield, Nixa police departments show multiple openings; fewer students registering for police academies

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 8:42 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield’s police chief said the number of people wanting to become a police officer is dwindling. With some long time officers about to hang up their badges, the shortage could get even worse.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said between those upcoming retirements and shrinking police academy class sizes, he will have more than 30 open positions to fill this year.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m having a hard time trying to find people,” Williams said.

Williams told the Springfield City Council Tuesday in his 40 years of police work, this is probably the most challenging year for him to recruit new officers.

”As an example we have an academy class that’s due to graduate Feb. 5,” he said. ”It’s 10. That academy class is supposed to be 25. We started with 13 and we lost three.”

The latest academy class is scheduled to start in February.

”We’re debating if we’re going to back that up, because that class was supposed to be 30,” Williams said. “There are five in that class, five. “

Plus, seven long time officers will be retiring in the next couple of months. That’s on top of 33 current vacancies in his department.

”40 vacancies minus five, [that is] 35 vacancies, and we won’t have another academy class until next year,” Williams said. “We’re going to be 35 people down, minimum, on the patrol and office side, which is 10% of my workforce.”

Williams said fewer people are wanting to become officers than ever before.

“We have weathered this nation-wide storm in police and recruiting for years and not been affected by it, it’s finally hit here,” Williams said.

Nearby, the Nixa Police Department could feel some of the effects of small academy classes.

”We don’t have our own academy, so we have to outsource our recruits from other academies,” said Lieutenant Jason Fleetwood. “It really depends on their attendance at their academies for us to be able to pull from. “

The police department was fully staffed back in December, but as the city continues to grow and call numbers rise, the city of Nixa now needs to hire three more officers.

”We just increased our starting pay to $19.07 an hour, we have the support of our city council and our community, so we’ve been able to add staffing,” Fleetwood said. “Some of the openings we’ve been filling haven’t necessarily been vacant positions, they’ve been additional spots.”

Fleetwood said he hopes to move up hiring dates for the additional officer positions approved by the Nixa city council. They were initially set for the second quarter of the year, but he plans to ask city council to move them up to the first quarter.

”Obviously we need those officers, the sooner the better,” Fleetwood said. “I understand officers salary, benefits, equipment that’s a lot of money, but we have showed the need for that staffing level and we are trying to get those as quickly as we can.”

Both police departments are working on ways to attract officers to their areas, whether they be from a local academy or from out of state.

Ozark Police Department says they’re not having the same trouble filling officer roles

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