Officer shortage at Bismarck Police, fewer applicants and officer retention
Your News Leader has learned the Bismarck Police Department is down nearly 20 officers.
Administrators say the officer shortage is causing a domino effect throughout the department, and officers are having to put in more hours to make ends meet.
Department administrators say they have 124 officers and to be fully staffed they'd need 129.
They say they still need to hire five officers. They say the problem is, they're 17 officers down on the roads currently because of training and vacancies.
They have seven officers doing field training and five recent hires who still need to go through the academy.
Bismarck officers are putting in more time on the road.
"We're still tasked to do the same amount of work with fewer officers now," said Lt. Roger Marks, Bismarck Police Department
"People are running from call to call," added Marks. "And, we still have proactive work to do, special assignments and overtime."
The shortage is causing a domino effect into units like traffic and investigations.
Marks said, "They can't investigate all of them with their man power shortage so a lot of those cases are going back to patrol."
Retention is down but so are applications.
Bismarck Police Chief Dave Draovitchsaid, "It's hard to find good people and we're also not getting the numbers of applicants that they used to."
Marks says a big issue for many officers is pay.
"You just look at any major cities, municipalities and counties in North Dakota and Bismarck is not competing," said Marks.
He says it's hard to keep up with other cities like Fargo that have pay scales that go way beyond what an officer with the same experience would be paid at BPD.
Draovitch says he's proud of the officers for keeping afloat.
"They're working overtime, the SRO's (school resource officers) are helping as much as they can. We have other people helping out. Our training officer will go out and work the streets, our accreditation officer has been out working the streets," said Draovitch.
He says the police portfolio holder for the city is aware of the issues.
Draovitch will speak to commissioners in the coming weeks about this to try to find a solution.
Marks says the light at the end of the tunnel isn't for another year though. He believes most of the officers hired on recently won't be on the streets for another nine
to 10 months.