The Springfield Police Division will hire nearly two dozen officers in the coming year because of low staffing numbers.
It should have about 130 officers, Capt. Lee Graf said, but currently has 112 on its roster.
It will be able to hire more officers after voters approved an income tax increase this past spring, said Graf, who will take over as chief next month. Springfield residents voted to raise the city’s income tax for 5½ years from 2 percent to 2.4 percent.
Springfield city commissioners are expected to vote on a $15 million budget for the police division on Dec. 5.
Candidates will take the civil service test on Dec. 2, which they have to score 70 percent or higher on, as well as complete a polygraph, psychological tests and interviews. The division is also accepting officers or deputies who have been with a certified department for a year. They can apply directly with personnel and don’t have to take the civil service test.
Graf hopes to hire some of the new recruits in January. Some of them will be a part of the Safe Streets Task Force that will be up and running in May.
City leaders included the task force in campaign promises for the income tax increase. It wasn’t started sooner due to low manpower, Graf said, including retirements and officers leaving.
The task force will include a variety of officers focused on drugs and gun violence.
“We have a new opioid diversion officer who will be involved in that, the drug unit will be involved in that,” Graf said. “We have community response team, community response officers will be involved in that as well as using the K-9 units, bike officers on evenings and other officers on shift work.”
They also will address quality of life issues in the city.
“Cars speeding through a neighborhood, loud car stereos, things like that where they might go out that day and really concentrate on that in a neighborhood and really try abate some of those issues,” Graf said.
The task force will run from May to October. That’s when the division sees the most activity on the streets, he said.
“In the winter things tend to cut down a little bit because people aren’t outdoors,” Graf said.
The new task force will be based at the police substation on Johnny Lytle Avenue. It was closed earlier this year because of budget constraints but later reopened after the income tax passed.
The 2018 proposed budget also includes new police cruisers. The division will buy five new cruisers for its fleet and recycle the older ones to be used by other city departments.
“We have a fleet of vehicles and obviously what we try to do is rotate a few new vehicles in every year,” Graf said.