GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Police departments across the country have been dealing with shortages as officers are leaving the jobs and few are applying to begin the career.
It started before the pandemic, ballooning after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
In these past few years, cities have had to turn to new ways to recruit officers, like in Golden Valley.
The city is home to some 23,000 people, but at a special city council meeting Tuesday night, the chief acknowledged its policing problem.
"Every city around here is looking for police officers," said Chief Virgil Green. "We've got to be able to say, why Golden Valley."
Chief Green said the department is down to 17 officers when it can hire 31, but in an interview with KARE 11, he assured residents that their service isn't in jeopardy.
"The city is safe, the city will continue to be safe, and you will definitely have police officers responding to your calls for service," said Chief Green.
Chief Green also laid out his plan to deal with the shortage, but the pace of recruiting is especially concerning for the head of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Jeff Potts.
"I am a little surprised it's going as slowly as it has, but we aren't seeing a dramatic increase in the number of candidates in the pipeline," said Potts. "Doesn't matter if it's in the metro area, or greater Minnesota."
The problem in Golden Valley has been persistent and it has been on top of an investigation into the department's alleged toxic workplace culture, it's anti-racism efforts since then and Chief Green was appointed just last fall amidst it all.
"The type of culture, the type of work environment that we're trying to create is one that will hopefully be one somebody can come in and see the value in that and spread that information and say hey, you might want to come over here, things are not as bad as people are saying," said Chief Green.
KARE 11 reporter Jennifer Hoff asked Potts whether the current staffing level at the Golden Valley Police Department is concerning.
"That would be very concerning to be that low and I'm sure it's exhausting for the chief and the other officers that still work there to keep up with that volume and not see a decline in the level of public safety," said Potts.
To combat that, Potter suggests creating scholarships for candidates and a pathway to policing for anyone with at least a two-year degree. Chief Green, on the other hand, is promoting a $10,000 hiring incentive.
"Hopefully that is attractive to some people who are outside of Minnesota and also definitely those who are in Minnesota," said Chief Green. "And we definitely want to make sure once we get you, that you're pretty happy."
In the meantime, the agency will lean on the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office for mutual aid that allows deputies to select a variety of Golden Valley shifts.
Chief Green is also hoping the work they're doing will inspire change.
"I think we have to change the way we police and the way we are recruiting to make sure that people enjoy coming to work and at the end of the day, the one thing that really counts is this is about service to our citizens," said Chief Green, who's also highlighting other benefits like tuition reimbursement and paid parental leave.
Potts says Governor Walz is proposing about $300 million in his budget for city's to use how they wish that could include recruitment and retention.
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