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100 more officers in 10 years on Colorado Springs police chief's wish list

June 9, 2017 Updated: June 10, 2017 at 9:26 pm
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The 36 police officers from the 66th police class at the Colorado Springs Police Department Training Academy take their oaths of office Friday, April 14, 2017, during the graduation ceremony at the Village Seven Presbyterian Church for the 66th police class at the Colorado Springs Police Department Training Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Colorado Springs Police Department wants to add up to 100 more sworn officers to its ranks over the next decade.

The proposed $10 million dollar commitment will start with 10 additional officers in 2018, police Chief Pete Carey told Mayor John Suthers and City Council during their annual workshop Friday.

A shortage of officers has long been an issue as the department has sought to recover from the recession, during which there were no academies and wages were stagnant. In 2012, the sworn strength fell to its lowest point, 632 officers, Carey said.

Numbers have since recovered, but remain below where they should be, Carey said.

The authorized sworn strength is 684, with an actual force of 666, of which 36 are new graduates still in supervised field training. That puts CSPD far below where 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data shows it should be, Carey said.

According to the data, a police department covering a population of 200,000-500,000, like Colorado Springs, should employ 18.6 officers per 10,000 people. The city has 14, Carey said. By comparison, Denver has 21.5 officers per 10,000 people, Boulder, 16.6, and Fort Collins, 13.2.

Carey said he's under no illusions - CSPD won't hit the magic number during his tenure. But even adding 10 officers next year would help reduce officer overtime and burnout while increasing officer safety and improving response time to top emergencies, which is just under 12 minutes this year, well short of the goal of 8 minutes, he said.

Adding that many officers hinges in part on voters going along with Mayor John Suther's plan to reinstitute a Stormwater Enterprise fee, which would free up millions of dollars now budgeted for those projects.

The 100 officers would be in addition to the 62 recruits entering the academy in July.

Reiterating a point he made last fall, CSPD is losing officers at a faster rate than it can hire them, Carey said.

Since 2012, the department has lost 240 sworn officers, with 21 leaving this year, Carey said. Another 30 could leave by the end of 2017, following attrition rates the last two years, he said.

That's 4.2 officers a month, Carey said.

In order to "stop the bleeding," Carey said he thinks officers' pay needs to be competitive.

The city took a step toward that goal this year when it approved a 5 percent pay raise for new officers, but salaries remain below the market. An assessment by the city's Human Resources Department last year showed CSPD pays its officers up to 31 percent less than other departments across the state.

Council president Richard Skorman said fair pay for all of the city's employees is at the top of his concerns this year.

Other business discussed included:

- Continuing to outfit officers with body worn cameras, which Carey said already is speeding up the time it takes to investigate citizen complaints and internal affairs.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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