- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) - Yuma police officials are looking for ways to attract and retain officers now that law enforcement agencies across Arizona are recruiting to fill positions that had been empty for many years.

Losing officers wasn’t a major issue in recent years because of the recession, the Yuma Sun reported (https://bit.ly/1lYrhC4). But now that the economy has improved, Yuma is facing a problem because it can’t afford to pay its officers competitive wages.

Police Chief John Lekan said his agency has lost 33 officers over the past year. Most were lured away by agencies offering better pay and benefits.

Yuma can hire up to 179 officers and is currently 14 officers short of being fully staffed. Still, nine newly hired officers won’t be on their own for another three to six months, because they are undergoing training.

“We anticipate losing additional officers. We know that we have at least four or five officers seeking employment elsewhere or are being actively recruited,” Lekan said. “This is not a situation the community needs to panic about. I don’t want the community to become concerned about the quality of our officers.”

But the police chief said it is only a matter of time before the situation grows more serious, to the point where his agency would have to cut some of the services it offers, such as reducing traffic enforcement, eliminating educational programs and not participating in special events.

“We want to get this reversed. Public safety is important to the community,” Lekan said. “This would be a step backwards and not the relationship we want to have with the community.”

In addition to adjusting the pay and benefits to more of a market level, Lekan said some of the other possibilities being discussed include offering officers an educational reimbursement, night differential pay, shift differential pay, bilingual pay and a uniform allowance.

In the meantime, Lekan said his agency will have to figure how to continue with its current level of service with fewer officers.


Information from: The Sun, https://www.yumasun.com

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