YUMA, AZ — The Yuma Police Department is faced with a major police officer shortage after losing nearly 40 officers to higher-paying agencies over the last three years.
According to the Yuma Police Department Chief of Police, the department is adopting strategies that would improve officer retention and recruitment.
“We’re losing our officers to other agencies who are offering these incentives,” Chief John Lekan said. “Offering higher pay, unfortunately, maybe even offering a little more community.”
According to Chief Lekan, those losses have critically affected the Yuma Police Department.
Lekan added that the officers who end up leaving were once crucial to the agency’s proficiency.
“These are the officers that are hitting all cylinders,” Chief Lekan said. “Very efficient […] They were also the foundation of our experience.”
According to the City Administrator, the issue of retention circles back to uncompetitive salaries. This is a problem Greg Wilkinson said points to the city’s Public Safety Retirement System.
“Yuma Police Department this year has a $33.8 million dollar budget,” Wilkinson said. “About five years ago it was $27.1, so it’s increased a lot.”
“But the issue is the Public Safety Retirement System keeps eating into that budget, so it doesn’t allow us to increase officer pay like we would like to.”
While the city balances strick budgets and a six million dollar loss toward the Retirement System, both Yuma Police and city officials tackle multiple recruitment strategies.
Chief Lekan said signing bonuses might help make the agency become more competitive.
“Things we have not done in the past [which] we are now looking into are hiring bonuses,” Chief Lekan said.
In the meantime, a long-term solution remains under works.
“[Once] the Public Safety Retirement System curve [is] down,” Wilkinson said. “I think that will help us a lot and we’re hopeful we’ll get there in a couple years.”