The men and women responsible for keeping the city of South Bend safe are now facing an added challenge.
The police department is under-staffed and there 14 vacant officer positions.
Now, detectives are occasionally being pulled from their departments in order to make sure there are enough patrols in the city at all times.
In the last recruitment round, the department had 80 applicants signed up to take a physical test but only 40 showed up. Chief Ron Teachman said they are lucky to have five to six candidates to send to the police academy after each round of recruitment.
“We are budgeted for 260 police officers,” Teachman said. “We’ve had difficulty maintaining even close to that number.”
Teachman currently oversees 246 sworn officers – it’s a number that puts a strain on regular patrols.
“We have a commitment to put a certain number of officers on the streets every day for public safety and officer safety,” he said.
The standard is 19 patrol officers for each shift, each day.
An under-staffed department means detectives are pulled into the patrol division.
“Otherwise we’re paying a lot of overtime,” Teachman said.
Unfilled positions also mean there are several hundred thousand dollars left over in the salary budget.
“We fund for 260 and try to maintain that,” Teachman said. “I think it would be damaging to the department to take that away because it would lower the ceiling of achievement to 255 or 250.”
Part of the challenge is candidates are dropping out of the process.
“You go through this whole thing and they don’t even show up,” said Capt. Mattie Taylor, who is in charge of recruitment and officer training. “What do you do? It’s extremely frustrating.”
The department got about 90 applications for the latest round of candidates. Eighty of those applicants were invited to take a physical exam after an initial background check. Only half of those showed up for the test.
Then, 32 candidates were asked to take the written exam. Thirty-one showed up on test day, but ten failed.
“We won’t accept just warm bodies to fill seats,” Teachman said. “We need to maintain standards.”
SBPD enlisted the help of an IT consultant to determine how to recruit candidates who will succeed in the hiring process.
“I think one of the greatest opportunities is to pursue candidates from under-represented groups in the community like African Americans and Hispanics,” said Santiago Garces.
If you would like more information on SBPD recruitment, click here