LINCOLN — The Lincoln Police Department, like many other law enforcement agencies in the state, is struggling with staffing.
The 36-person department is down seven officers thanks to a slew of recent retirements, and the process to fill vacancies is slow at best.
In an effort to help relieve some of the police staffing shortages, Town Councilor Bruce Ogni submitted a resolution to the council this week, calling for additional basic police training academies in Rhode Island.
Ogni said hiring officers is a statewide challenge, exacerbated by the lack of academies available.
Right now, the R.I. Municipal Police Training Academy holds two sessions a year, which last for 22 weeks each.
“This resolution asks them to come up with a way to have more sessions, to alleviate some of the problems we’re facing,” Ogni said. He’s hopeful that the result would be “less wear and tear on the guys and ladies on the job.”
“I know what that’s like, to work extra hours feeling like you never take the uniform off,” the former police officer added, saying it’s easier for officers to fall out of love with the job when they’re pushed too hard.
Town Administrator Phil Gould, another former officer, thanked Ogni for putting the resolution together. He said there were 80 seats requested for the upcoming police academy in January, but that they can allow less than 60.
“It might be a heavy lift, but I think you may get support from the state level to make this happen,” he said.
Ogni said he understands the burden, and thanked Gould and Police Chief Brian Sullivan for their support on the resolution. It will be sent as a communication to other municipalities in the state, asking for their support.
The resolution specifically requests that Governor Dan McKee and the general assembly increase the number of academies, arguing that Lincoln and numerous other communities are facing vacancies, and that the Academy cannot currently meet the demand for recruit training.
“The lack of basic police training opportunities being offered has created a backlog and has delayed efforts of municipalities to hire and train new police officer candidates,” the resolution reads. It passed unanimously.
In the meantime, the recently-approved Lateral Transfer Policy, which allows officers from other police departments to more easily apply to work in Lincoln, has taken effect. The department received 13 applications as of Dec. 12, after posting the call for lateral transfers.
Gould said they’re aiming to schedule interviews the first week of January. Ideally, he said, the department will hire three candidates.
“It will be good to bring people over who have some experience,” he said, noting that the department has lost almost its entire upper command staff. There are currently no captains, and only one out of four possible lieutenants.
“They don’t have any full-time officers who can train the new recruits,” he said. The department is set to begin promotional exams to fill those gaps.
The subject of staffing was raised again during Tuesday’s council meeting, when councilors asked about last month’s public safety report. There were 126 radar/traffic posts conducted, but only 67 stops.
“It comes down to manpower,” Gould said. Ogni said he understands the issues with staffing, but said he’d “still like to see that number come up,” arguing that officers can leave their radar post or traffic stop if they’re called elsewhere.