By Jacob Sturm
Across the country police officers are needed.
Staffing shortages have been prevalent issues in many cities, putting more strains on the officers who are serving those communities. The Mustang Police Department is also seeing the effects.
Chief Rob Groseclose talked about MPD’s predicament.
“We have not been really fully staffed in quite some time,” Groseclose said. “We hope to be. We have our 26th officer starting Monday, but it seems like we’ve constantly had somebody in training. So, that’s been a challenge for us to replace the positions that are leaving and then get them trained to where they’re an equivalent replacement.”
Officers go through a 4-to-5-month field training program starting with riding along with an officer. Then they’re driving and participating more and ending with them operating completely by themselves with an officer there to keep them out of trouble.
The officer riding with the training officer in the last phase doesn’t really do anything besides observe.
Groseclose said it is best practice to have a form of a training program. Candidates hired most recently by Mustang are already certified officers and don’t have to go through the police academy like officers just starting out in law enforcement.
“They’ve already been through the police academy,” Groseclose said. “They just have to learn Mustang’s policies, procedures, way of doing business, geography. There’s a lot of things they have to learn and it comes quickly for them.”
Groseclose didn’t think the COVID pandemic served as the cause for the struggles staffing officers. He instead talked about it being normal with law enforcement.
“You lose people to retirements, and that’s a great thing about Mustang because it is a career-driven agency or a career agency,” Groseclose said. “So, we probably have a third of us that could retire any minute. And to replace that position is very difficult. It takes a lot of time.”
With that training period, along with the multiple months it takes for the hiring process, departments can become shorthanded for long stretches.
That can add more stress to a shift if staffing shortages are happening.
“When we don’t have a guy out in a car, we don’t have a guy out in a car,” Groseclose said. “It’s challenging. Those are felt by everybody throughout the agency. We’ve got guys that may want to take off for vacation that can’t because they don’t have the staffing level. You’ve got guys that we have to limit some training opportunities because of that. But we do a really good job at keeping everything where it needs to be.”
Even with the shortages in staffing impacting the department, there are still plenty of officers to take care of the community and keep them safe.
“Through all of these trials and tribulations and everything we’ve gone through in the last several years, we’ve got the greatest group of guys around,” Groseclose said.