The Bloomingtonian

Perspective: Bloomington Police officers express concern about staffing levels before annexation plan by city

FILE PHOTO: March 25, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: The Bloomington Police Department investigates after a fatal shooting in the 1700 block of N. College Ave., early Thursday morning. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

The Bloomingtonian was tagged in the following Facebook post by Bloomington Police Department Detective Jeff Rogers Wednesday night:

Update: Bloomington Police Department Chief Mike Diekhoff has responded:

https://bloomingtonian.com/2021/05/17/bloomington-police-chief-responds-to-concerns-about-annexation/

__

Earlier statement by BPD officer Jeff Rodgers:

“A message to Mayor Hamilton City of Bloomington, IN – Office of the Mayor, the Bloomington City Council, and specifically, to the citizens of the City of Bloomington regarding annexation.

Whether you are for or against annexation, Bloomington is the main hub of south central Indiana and contains a major University. The city and university will continue to grow; so it’s rational for Bloomington to expand its borders in order to properly grow.

Mayor Hamilton was correct when he stated that the city should have continued annexing small areas over the last 15 years. Now, he wants to annex a very large amount in order to “catch up” with what should have been done all along. This sounds great on paper, but in reality, this does not work from a public safety point of view because you must gradually increase the size of your police force at the same time. Please, let me explain.

On Monday, May 17th, the Bloomington Police Department will hire six new officers. This will mean that BPD has hired 64 officers since Mayor Hamilton took office less than five and a half years ago. In that same time frame, 65 officers have resigned from Bloomington PD.

For those that are unaware, the Bloomington PD is budgeted to have 100 officers. By hiring six new officers on Monday, we will then have 93 officers. We currently have three officers on military leave, two on light duty, and now seven officers in the training program. Those officers in training will not be available for at least five months to act as solo patrol officers.

Why is this all important? The city of Bloomington currently has 81 officers to patrol its streets.

In 2020, the City of Bloomington paid more than $50,000 for an “Organizational Assessment” in which a 3rd party company evaluated the staffing level of BPD based upon Bloomington’s call volume. The study recommended that BPD should increase its current staffing level of 105 officers to 121 officers.

Mayor Hamilton made the recommendation to lower the staffing level to 100 officers.

By annexing the large amount of area that Mayor Hamilton has recently announced, BPD’s call volume will increase by 20-30%. Even if we assume that the call volume will only increase by 20%, BPD will need an additional 20+ officers to handle the increased work load.

The mayor anticipates that annexation will take effect on January 1st, 2024. This means that BPD will have to begin providing police services to all of those areas on January 1st, 2023.

This is important because it means that the Bloomington Police Department needs to add a minimum of 27 additional officers in the next 19 months in order to be properly staffed.

We have had 19 officers resign in the last 17 months and only hired 13 officers in the same time period. By saying we need 27 officers, it means we are also ignoring the findings from the staffing study showing we should currently have 121 officers budgeted rather than 100 officers.

One of the items listed on the City of Bloomington Annexation website, “Areas annexed into Bloomington receive enhanced services including policing.”

With these numbers, we are not properly staffed and THERE WILL BE NO ENHANCED POLICE SERVICES. BPD will be responding to more calls, with less officers. Response times will increase; and there will be certain types of calls that police will be unable to respond to any further.

Please, call Mayor Hamilton. Call your member of the City Council. When you are annexed, your property taxes will go up because you will be receiving “enhanced services.” If you want policing to be one of those services, then the city will have to add more cops; Plain and Simple.

The mayor will say it’s not possible to add that many officers in such a short amount of time because the police academy can only train 6 to 8 officers per year. This is not accurate. Officers leave our department every year to go to other departments; they are called lateral officers because they have already been to the academy and require four months or less of training (versus 8 or 9 months for a brand new officer).

BPD does not get many lateral officers because there is no incentive for officers to come here. Monroe County is the highest cost of living county in the state; Bloomington is the 7th largest city in the state; and BPD is ranked 68th in the state in salary.

On March 12th, 2021, Mayor Hamilton issued a press release stating the city would be providing incentives to enhance public safety by providing police officers with a one-time $12,000 down payment for the purchase of a home within the city limits or provide a monthly payment of $500 if you rent within the city.

I know of at least half a dozen officers that immediately applied for this incentive. Not one of them have received a single penny as of two months later. The city’s response to officers asking about this incentive; the controller’s office doesn’t know how to pay the officers for this incentive.

The Bloomington Police Department is already in a very serious situation because of its low staffing. If the staffing does not increase and the city increases its size and call volume through annexation, it will be a very dangerous situation for our officers, and more importantly, for our citizens of Bloomington.

I am a member of the Bloomington Police Department and all of my numbers/figures listed in this post are accurate.”

The Bloomingtonian reached out to BPD officer Paul Post, who is president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, to check the numbers Thursday morning.

Post said the following:

“We have 89 today. Adding 6 new officers on Monday = 95. have 2 officers leaving by end of May=93 left. That will make 8 officers who left in 2021 alone. 93 is 7 short of the budgeted 100, which is still 21 short of what the staffing study recommended (121 officers, or 121-93= 28 short in reality). Then add in increased staff for annexation in 18 months – it’ll be more than 20 needed per the new population numbers.”

“We cannot hire and train 40-50 new officers. We can’t hire that level of lateral (already certified officers) with our non-competitive pay and benefit rates,” Post said. “Then factor in the unknown number of officers leaving over the next 18 months.”

Rate this post

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 36

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Bloomingtonian on Patreon!