OGDEN, Utah -- The number of police officers is shrinking in Ogden, and the struggle to recruit more is only growing—putting stress on police and their agencies.
The Ogden Police Department has been working to fill openings for 10 to 15 officers during the past year, and they said the problem is lower pay compared to other opportunities and a lack of qualified applicants.
“Since 2012, we've lost 43 officers,” said Assistant Chief Eric Young with the Ogden City Police Department.
Right now, the Ogden Police Department is down 14 officers.
“It has been a struggle throughout the summer," Young said. "Our staffing is not where we've wanted it to be, our patrol officers worked a lot of overtime."
Young said that's how it has been for the past 3 years. He said more officers are moving to bigger cities for a bigger salary.
“Other, larger agencies have been able to be far more competitive with what we call a lateral hiring program, where officers get credit for their time here and maybe the top of a pay range in another department they see a significant pay raise,” Young said.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the median starting salary for a new officer is $40,000. In smaller departments, it is just $30,000. The obstacle of low pay mixed with Ogden’s 50 percent decrease in the number of applicants is a problem police agencies across the nation are having.
“What’s concerning is that the departments are having such a hard time finding cadets,” said Jack Rickards, Director of the Weber State University Police Academy.
Rickards said a lot has changed since he started his career in law enforcement 32 years ago.
“Even within the last 9 months to a year we have seen a tremendous amount of openings in police departments,” Rickards said.
Rickards said a decade ago nearly 400 people would apply for two positions within an agency. Now, it’s likely to see only 100 applicants for 15 openings.
“They don't expect to get rich doing this job," Young said. "There's something deeper in every person that wants to take this career on. I think this drives them, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have a good comfortable way of life and standard of living, and that's what we're trying to provide."
Ogden Police have been working closely with the city to make improvements. They said they'll have some good news regarding funding that they'll be announcing sometime this week.