Tuscaloosa Police working to fight officer shortage
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - The Tuscaloosa Police Department is facing a severe shortage of police officers.
One high ranking officer says this is by far the worst job market in 25 years in terms of trying to recruit new officers.
The police department says it is short by 28 sworn officers, which represents about 10 percent of its entire force, and the reasons vary.
Assistant Chief Steve Rice is a 25-year veteran of the Tuscaloosa Police Department, and still loves what he does.
" I love it. It’s a great field if you’re into service,” said Rice.
Rice said it’s the type of job you have to love, and admits it’s not for everyone. He said that’s part of the problem in filling those 28 vacancies on the force.
“But the law enforcement image over the last several years has definitely hindered our application process,” said Rice.
The city has tried increasing pay. The starting salary is now $51,000 a year, and there is a move to convert the retirement plan from a private retirement to the Retirement Systems of Alabama, another idea to help recruit and retain police officers.
“So anybody coming into our retirement system with any amount of years of service would have to start at zero. For instance, if I had ten years in the state retirement systems and I wanted to come to Tuscaloosa, I would lose all that,” said Rice.
Police have made Tuscaloosa city leaders aware of the personnel shortfall. City Council President Kip Tyner frankly is a little surprised.
“I was hoping it would be a little higher this time after passing the largest pay plan in the city of Tuscaloosa’s history for both our police and fireman,” said Tyner.
Moving forward, Rice said they will continue with their recruitment campaign. They’ve had some success in landing applicants from other states such a Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi. City officials say they’ll continue to work with police to fill those 28 positions.
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