Police departments struggle to find part-time help | News, Sports, Jobs
By the time David Price started as a part-time police officer, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Academy had over 30 students all eager to start a career in law enforcement. As was often the case at the time, graduating students had to “to scramble,” he said, to find employment among the handful of local police departments that were hiring.
“It’s the opposite now” said Price, now chief of the Fredonia Police Department and a 28-year law enforcement veteran. He noted that there are more vacancies – full-time or part-time – than there are job seekers, as more long-serving officers leave or retire.
Over the past two years, Fredonia has gone from six part-time agents to one. Part of the problem, Price said this week, is a dwindling number of applicants coming out of the academy who end up working for Fredonia, Lakewood-Busti, Ellicott, Westfield, Carroll or the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.
When smaller departments hire new part-time officers, many end up quickly leaving for full-time positions at other agencies that offer better pay and benefits.
Price acknowledged that small town police departments are generally “springboards” for young officers wishing to evolve. “You invest money and time in training, and soon after you make that investment, they leave,” he said.
Whereas in the past, when a part-time agent could stay for a few years, “We’re lucky if we get a year now,” he said.
Lakewood Village Council on Monday approved the hiring of a new part-time officer for the Lakewood-Busti Police Department. The hiring was much to the delight of Lakewood-Busti Police Chief Christopher DePonceau, who told the Post-Journal that it has been difficult in recent years to find part-time officers to fill vacancies.
“Each year there seems to be fewer and fewer people applying to enter the police academy, resulting in a shortage of cadets that we can hire as well as other police departments that rely on officers to part-time”, he said.
At the Westfield Police Department, the smallest force in Chautauqua County outside of the Carroll Police Department, Village Chief Rob Genthner had to create a new full-time position after struggling to find help part time. Currently, Westfield has two part-time and six full-time officers.
“I probably need at least three more (part-time officers) in addition to the two we have,” said Genthner. “The biggest thing is that we used to keep part-timers for two to three years, but with so many retirements in the county, we’re hiring a part-timer and another department hiring for a full-time position.”
Genthner noted that many part-time officers work for other police departments. “We share part-time employees across the county,” he said, adding later, “It makes it even harder when working out the schedule to have to work around that.”
He added: “We definitely need more recruits in the academy to fill these positions in every department.
Chief William Ohnmeiss of the Ellicott Police Department spoke earlier this month about the difficulties in finding new officers. “We hadn’t had this problem before because part-timers were available”, said Ohnmeiss. He said the city needs part-time help to work, especially when full-time officers are sick or on vacation.
The Carroll Police Department, in the southeast corner of the county, employs four part-time officers, including Chief Bill Nelson. He said while every other department in the county has part-timers to supplement full-timers, Carroll is strictly staffed with part-timers.
“I don’t have the attraction that others have” Nelson spoke of other police departments that may seek to retain officers by offering them full-time jobs when they become available. ” I do not have that. It’s even more difficult to have a full squad.
Nelson said he recently lost an officer, but was able to quickly recruit a new member to fill the vacancy. “I was lucky,” he said, but adding, “I worry every time one of my guys might leave.”
Like the city’s police force, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office employs part-time workers. The details, Sheriff James Quattrone said, include court security, summer shipping, inmate transports and some enhanced patrol contracts.
“We are also having difficulty finding qualified candidates,” said the sheriff.