Unlike some other major cities, Colorado Springs' Police Department is attracting a large number of applicants to its academy.
The most recent recruiting push for 2018's academy class just ended with 1,401 applications, 68 of them veteran officers looking to transfer to Colorado Springs from other departments, police spokesman Howard Black said Wednesday.
That's on top of the 62 applicants the department already accepted for its 2017 academy, which starts in July - up from 48 in 2016 and its largest class ever.
"We're still lucky," Black said. "We're still getting a pool we can do that deep dive with," he said, referring to the vetting that applicants undergo before entering the academy.
In coming months, the 1,401 applicants will be given written, oral and physical tests, undergo a polygraph test and background check, and be evaluated medically, all to see if they can meet the city's standards, Black explained.
With each test, the pool will narrow until the department has its 2018 class. The number of seats available in that academy has not been determined.
Colorado Springs' abundance of applicants stands in contrast to other departments across the nation that have had trouble generating enough interest to justify holding academies.
The Dallas Police Department made national news last year when it twice canceled its academy because of a lack of applicants. Wednesday, spokesman Tramese Jones clarified, "We postponed some of our starting dates last year, we did not cancel classes."
Dallas is not the only department struggling with a thinning applicant pool, the result of economic and social changes largely following a number of controversial police shootings of minorities. Other departments have had to get creative in recruiting or make chances to requirements to boost numbers.
The Chicago Police Department, twice, has lowered its minimum age for rookie officers. It was first dropped to 21 in 2001, and then down to 18 in 2013 to attract more applicants. But the department has still had trouble keeping its force fully staffed.
In September, Chicago police announced a hiring blitz to add nearly 1,000 officers to combat soaring crime rates.
Last year, the Philadelphia Police Department, like CSPD and a host of other departments, lowered its educational requirements for recruits to cast a wider net. At the same time, Philadelphia also raised its age requirement from 19 to 22.
As a result, the department saw a 20 percent increase in applicants this year, Philadelphia police Sgt. Robert Ryan told CBS in January.
Colorado Springs' Police Department is proof, though, that a large applicant base isn't all that's needed to maintain adequate staffing.
Last week, Police Chief Pete Carey said he's seeking to increase the city's authorized strength for sworn officers by about 100 over the next decade to combat the department's staffing shortage, which reached a "critical" level last fall.
Currently, the department is approved for 684 officers, but after a number of resignations and retirements, stands at 666, Carey said.
The city has no trouble getting officers here, Carey said, it's keeping them that poses the biggest challenge.
He believes low pay is a driving force behind officers training in the city but taking up careers elsewhere; city officers are paid up to 31 percent less than other departments across the state, surveys have shown. The city approved a 5 percent pay raise for new officers this year, but salaries remain below market.
To stop the department from "bleeding" officers, Carey said they need better pay and the ability to recruit more officers into the ranks.
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