Kingman Police Department facing staffing issues
Low staffing causes department to pull officers from specialty divisions; FLEX and school resource officers included
Chief Bob DeVries of the Kingman Police Department presented Council with highlights from his department’s 2018 annual report at Tuesday’s meeting, and while there is plenty of good news, it appears staffing issues are throwing a wrench into KPD’s operations.
DeVries said the department received 42,301 calls for service in 2018. He noted that figure is a 5.6 percent reduction from the previous year.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean there was this drop-off in regards to crime, because there’s a direct correlation in regards to staffing and the numbers you’re seeing here,” he said.
One reason for that decrease, the chief said, could be because the department does its best to be proactive instead of reactive.
DeVries also told Council that officer-initiated activity in 2018 dropped by more than 48 percent.
“And a lot of that’s based upon staffing, because as officers are more busy with calls for service they have less opportunity to be able to get out there in the neighborhoods and be investigating suspicious incidents,” DeVries said.
Traffic citations saw a 27 percent decrease both in warnings and citations.
“Again, I believe it’s a direct correlation in regards to the staffing levels,” the chief said. “Currently in our specialty divisions, we’ve had to pull officers from our FLEX team, which is our street-level narcotics unit, our traffic unit, our gang unit, and the school resource officer program. So all of those will have an impact on some of the numbers you’re seeing here today.”
Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper said in an email to the Daily Miner that they have spoken to Kingman Unified School District and Kingman Academy of Learning on how it will impact KPD’s presence at the schools.
“SROs are a valuable asset to the schools,” Susan Chan, KAOL executive director said. “We will work with KPD and whatever they plan: we will support.”
KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks said they will share resources if that’s what’s needed.
KUSD has already moved forward with having security officers from Desert Mountain Security at all of their schools except for Desert Willow Elementary School.
The SRO program consists of one sergeant and five officers. Currently, one of the positons hasn’t been filled since 2017, and another officer is retiring in March. That would leave one sergeant and three officers for the schools.
DeVries also spoke to officer recruitment. He said KPD is proud of its recruitment team, which does an excellent job. And while he said the team works hard to bring on quality candidates, the chief noted it can be difficult as careers in law enforcement aren’t as sought after as they once were. Pair that with police officers being a “hot commodity,” and it’s no surprise that attracting new officers can be a competitive process.
Nationally, many agencies are facing a small pool of qualified candidates, which Cooper said they are dealing with locally.
“Those that do get accepted and hired are often recruited and wooed away by other agencies that can pay a higher wage,” Cooper said.
Even with all that being said, DeVries noted that KPD still has success bringing on new officers. Cooper added that there are four new officers in field training and one recruit officer in the academy.
“I’m concerned when I hear that we have staffing problems and that we’re pulling from other areas that are just as important,” said Councilwoman Jamie Scott Stehly after commending KPD for its efforts. “And it sounds like our arrest rates and all these other things are down only because we don’t have people on the scene to be there at the right time to catch those people. That makes me very nervous for our community.”
She then asked about recruitment success.
“It’s hard when you’re competing for a hot commodity and you’re in the lower 23rd percentile in regards to wage package,” the chief said. “So it is a challenge, and I give kudos to the team. I can tell you honestly we’ve had recruiters try to recruit our recruiting team.”
Potential wage increases, which could help with recruitment, could be discussed during the City’s budget session in March.