INDIANAPOLIS — Days after a new police recruits began their training, the president of the Indianapolis police union said staffing remained dangerously low.
"No one wants to buy a ticket to a sinking ship," said Rick Snyder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 86. "More officers leaving than they can bring in."
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is still 322 officers short even with the 33 recruits who started their training Monday, Snyder said.
Snyder said 115 officers have left the department since January and another 50 or so are expected to leave by February of next year.
Many, Snyder said, are leaving for new jobs in other police departments.
"They get best trained, seasoned professionals in Indiana at a fraction of the start up costs and expedite them to the streets," Snyder said.
The officer shortage is a public safety crisis, Snyder said.
IMPD has curtailed property crime investigations and traffic enforcement efforts, Snyder said.
The department is considering transferring officers out of the arson unit and handing those investigations over to the Indianapolis Fire Department, officials said. Firefighters assigned to the arson unit are trained law enforcement experts, carry a gun and can make arrests.
"While there are no definitive plans to cut services or eliminate policing units, we must be prepared to fulfill our primary responsibilities should staffing levels reach critical lows," said Alexa Boylan, IMPD's chief communications officer.
"Our community expects its police department to work with them to reduce violent crime, respond to 911 calls for service, investigate and solve major crimes, engage with them and maintain our high levels of training."
Indianapolis isn't the only department facing these problems. Staffing shortages are plaguing police in Atlanta, San Francisco, Memphis, Portland and other cities.
Policing is a difficult job with inherent dangers, officials say. Cops work long hours and on nights, weekends and holidays.
“Getting days off is really hard for patrol," IMPD Recruitment Officer Molly McAfee told WRTV in May 2022. "Moving around the department — usually there’s a lot of movement and promotions, but you can’t fill a slot until you have someone to backfill."
IMPD has been trying to hire more officers.
The department recently increased pay for starting officers to nearly $72,000 a year, erected recruiting billboards in other statesand has launched a new recruiting campaign. The depaertment has a website, JoinIMPD.indy.gov, devoted to finding recruits.
"Retention and recruiting is a national problem," Boylan said "Agencies, large and small are facing officer shortages, and the IMPD is no different."
In April, IMPD hired a production company to film a recruiting commercial touting the benefits of joining the department.
“Highlighting the officers of IMPD allows our community to see those who consistently serve our city,"Chief Randal Taylor said in April. "I am proud of our officers and believe that the opportunities offered within IMPD are the best in the nation. Come and check us out."
For information on how to apply, visit JoinIMPD.indy.gov.
MORE | ‘We need people’: Central Indiana law enforcement agencies face recruitment, staffing challenges | IMPD places billboards in neighboring states in effort to recruit new officers | IMPD teams up with local film production company to film commercial
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.