The Springfield Police Division is down nearly 20 officers and will soon begin testing new recruits as it looks to bolster its police force, local leaders said.
“It essentially makes the officer on the street busier,” said Capt. Lee Graf, who has been with the division for more than 20 years.
The division currently has 113 officers, down from the city’s ideal 131-member roster, due to retirements and officers leaving for other departments. The Springfield charter requires the police division to have a minimum staffing level of 124 sworn officers.
Springfield is expected to begin testing for new recruits in early December, Graf said.
“Our response with the critical calls hasn’t been affected but on some days when we’re right at bare minimum, certainly it will have an effect,” he said.
The city also is expected to hire seven new officers as part of the creation of the Safe Streets Task Force, which was promised as part of the city’s recently passed income tax increase.
The Springfield Police Division has seen a drop in applicants for its police officer positions in recent years, according to city records. In 2008, the police division saw 210 applicants and 167 people take its civil service exam. Last year, that number dropped to 124 applicants and 101 test-takers — a more than 40 percent decrease in both applicants and examinations.
About 20 years ago, the city saw as many as 300 people for civil service tests, city staff said.
Of 41 departments in central and southwest Ohio last year, the Springfield Police Division had the fifth-lowest top-level base pay at about $58,000 annually, according to State Employee Relations Board contract records. The top-level pay at other departments in the region, included Whitehall at $87,000 and Kettering at $84,000 annually.
“When you’re competing with some of the more affluent suburbs and things like that, that’s hard to do,” Graf said.
Springfield resident Lisa McKeen said she would like to see more officers.
“Sometimes I don’t think there’s enough because it seems like they can’t patrol everywhere, and they can’t be everywhere at the same time,” she said.
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