Friday's Capital gave an outstandingly useful update on the city police officer shortage--one that shed light on a situation that, quite frankly, confused AP.
The mayor has pointed out that the pay and benefits for starting Annapolis Police Officers is generally higher than other jurisdictions. My brain, reflecting numerous years of study in economics, determined that if this were the case either one of two things was true:
1. There should be no shortage of police officers.
2. The utility (compensation plus non-monetary aspects of the job) was so horrible in Annapolis that officers would take lower paying jobs in other jurisdictions.
AP was baffled, as seemingly being an officer in Annapolis is roughly same as anywhere else, and there is a shortage of 22 officers as a matter of fact.
But I forgot to think about the political factors--I forgot to think about the whole freegin' point of this whole freegin' blog. As The Capital reports:
...it has been nearly a year since the city has administered a written exam for people interested in becoming officers. The exam is generally considered the first step in the hiring process.
Ha! Incredible! You might as well offer a $1,000,000 starting salary--if they don't offer the entrance exam, there will be no new officers!! Holy guacamole, I'm all over this one.
The Moyer administration, through an email distributed by the public information officer, took the opportunity to give their take on the issue. I am now going to present you, the interested citizen and/or crime victim, various quotes from city officials so you can observe their thinking.
their quotes: bold.
my excellent commentary: normal font.
City leaders contend they've hired more officers than the previous administration and are working to coordinate funding and room in academies in surrounding jurisdictions.
I didn't realize that how well crime is prevented is determined by the number of officers you hired in the past. The city, oddly enough, does not have a police academy. But, the city charter--granted in 1708--provided for the appointment of "constables and other necessary officers". In all this time of having a police department and not having a police academy, you mean to tell me the city has still not figured out how to coordinate funding and room in surrounding academies? They already found office space for the Department of Economic Development--AND THE CHARTER AMENDMENT TO CREATE THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HAS NOT EVEN BEEN PASSED YET.
And while Detective Lee said he and other officers are continually questioned by people interested in joining the force, he doesn't know what to tell them.
Remember this...I'll get back to it.
Sgt. James Scott, the head recruitment officer for Annapolis police, said normally an exam would have been given in November and again in March. But he was told the funds were unavailable until the new budget kicked in this year.
OMG, in last year's budget, $96,000 was allotted for:
"Contract services: cost for on-line benefits program, Union & legal negotiations, employee physicals, psychological tests for police, Medical lab pre-employment & mandated CDS tests."
Folks, I am not making this stuff up. I have a hard copy of the budget if you would like to see it.
WHERE DID THIS MONEY GO??????????????????.....?
He said the cost depends on the number of applicants. He said he typically will get as many as 150 or 200 applications to take the exam.
Remember this too.
She (acting Chief Hopkins, I'm assuming) estimated the cost for each written test at $24 followed by physical, mental and emotional tests that can cost $700 per applicant.
So the total budget for this was $96,000. If the 'union & legal negotiations, and online-benefits' stuff takes up 75% of this budget, that would still leave $24,000 for testing, physicals, and emotional evaluations--enough to hire 33 officers. If the 'union & legal negotiations, and online-benefits' take up only half of the $96,000, you could hire 66 more officers. The current shortage is 22 officers. WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Sgt. Scott said he believes morale still is high among Annapolis officers, but will find out "what's on everyone's mind" during a recruiters committee meeting next week.
Here is how AP envisions that meeting:
Sgt. Scott: What's on your minds?
Everyone: Why don't you hire more officers?
Everyone: Our morale is low because we can't enforce the laws that we should.
Everybody asks when we're going to get people on, but that's a general question, he (Sgt. Scott) said.
Holy Crap!! 'When are we going to get people on' is, like, the most specific, non-general question I have ever heard! The answer is a fixed date in time, and can only be given after a specific recruitment plan is in place. Not to mention, that gives you a pretty damn good idea of what is on everyone's minds!
Ms. Moyer contends there is a nationwide shortage of qualified candidates to fill the police ranks and has said before that Mr. Weaver is working with Chief Johnson to create a pamphlet of information for those interested in a law-enforcement career.
AP: [dizzy, faints]
[7 minutes elapse]
AP: [comes to]
A nationwide shortage????!!! The head recruitment officer just said, like 3 paragraphs ago, that there are 150 to 200 applicants!!!! That's more applicants than the current size of the entire force!!! You could take the top 15% of the applicants and fill your vacancies! Forget about the pamphlet--offer the test!!
It's still unknown when the pamphlet will be completed.
The shortage in police officers is a nation wide crisis. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as internal security pressures, have made it very difficult for every police department to recruit and retain officers. Annapolis is far from alone in having difficulty recruiting and retaining police officers.
200 people don't even need to be recruited--they have already applied.
The current pay for newly hired officers -- $44,630.00 annually --is among the highest in the State. In fact, as of May 2007, it was the highest starting pay of any jurisdiction in the State. It is substantially higher than the starting salaries paid by Baltimore City,Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County.
Difference is: those counties actually hire their recruits. Offer the test!
Simply put, the City believes it has made a proposal that would make employment with the Annapolis Police Department extremely attractive to both incumbents and prospective new hires. The salary, health benefits,retirement benefits, and working conditions would be among the most attractive in the region. Unfortunately, the Union has rejected this offer, and has offered nothing constructive as an alternative. As a result, negotiations remain deadlocked, with no apparent end in sight.
Umm...you did make employment attractive---so attractive that 150-200 people apply to take each of the semi-annual exams. That's 300-400 people a year. HOW THE HELL IS THERE A SHORTAGE? With those numbers, you can tell the union 'the hell with you', and hire as many people as you want based on free market labor principles. THAT IS, IF YOU OFFER THE ENTRANCE TEST.
It is my hope that this post will be put in a time capsule, to be opened when the mayor returns returns from Europe and the police chief returns from sick leave. (Attention Mayor Moyer and Chief Johnson: get the heck back to work and fix this problem.)
I hope you were paying attention to today's rant--there will be a test!