The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) hopes a new agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) will help alleviate its staffing shortage.
The department has needed to add around 30 officers since the summer 2020, according to GPD spokesman Graham Glover.
He said the department can still staff its patrols with adequate personnel and respond to emergency situations without problem, but providing some enhanced services has become a challenge.
Glover said GPD uses overtime to cover these services, including extra patrols, enforcement initiatives and UF games, but the shortage complicates time off and sick leave.
Patrol officers represent the most pressing need in the department of almost 300 sworn and non-sworn employees.
“Once patrol is healthy, all your other units can get healthier,” Glover said.
Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are looking to recruit and fill holes in departments. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., addressed the issue on the Senate floor last week, saying Congress needs to make law enforcement a profession people want to join.
“You know, the challenges to these officers and their families, the challenges they face today are intensified as local departments struggle with the staffing shortages caused by record-high departures and difficulty filling the open positions they’ve got,” Blunt said.
Creating new officers takes time. Glover said the process takes 18 months—from the standard police academy to the GPD academy to field training.
The new agreement with the FOP will provide incentives for officers. Glover said the finishing touches still need to be completed, but the incentives should be ready to start within the coming weeks.
Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker asked Chief Lonnie Scott for an update on the issue at the Gainesville City Commission’s Jan. 20 meeting during a discussion on pedestrian safety.
He said the department is using some money approved by the city to assist with overtime pay and added that the incentives for new hires could range between $8,000-$11,000 based on experience.
“So clearly we have some issues that we need to face in that regard,” Duncan-Walker said. “I look forward to hearing any type of innovative solutions that you all can come up with in the interim because obviously that’s a critical piece of [pedestrian safety].”
GPD will use some overtime in the coming months on a high visibility pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign after receiving a $27,000 grant from the state.