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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Staff shortage at Springfield Police Department leads to changes in some services

Springfield Police Department
Michele Skalicky
/
Springfield Police Department headquarters on Chestnut Expressway in Springfield

There’s still a shortage of officers at the Springfield Police Department, but police chief Paul Williams says the situation is improving.

SPD is short about 44 officers, but there are currently 24 going through the department’s police academy.

Williams said after a recent public safety event at OTC hosted by Missouri Governor Mike Parson recruiting is up, and he’s hopeful for the future.

“We’ve had more applicants this year than any year in the last 10 years. (We have) an academy starting in September," Williams said. "The class now graduates end of this month, but a class starting in September—I had hoped to get 20. We’re going to exceed that. My goal is to have 25.”

And Williams said they’ll start recruiting soon for another academy that starts in February.

The shortage is due to the highest number of resignations and retirements he said the department has ever had.

That occurred in 2020, and Williams said that trend was related to the backlash against law enforcement following the killings of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people by law enforcement officers across the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered recruitment.

Williams said they’ve had to cut some services due to staffing issues.

“Response times are slower. High priority emergency calls—we’re still getting there when we should, but those other things, they’re taking a lot longer," he said, "and there’s some things we just can’t follow up on because we just don’t have the staff.”

SPD’s Records Division, which used to be open 24/7, is now only open 8 to 5 Monday through Friday due to lack of staff.

There’s also a shortage of civilian professional staff working at the police department, but he said interest in those jobs is up. There were as many applications for Records positions last month as there were in all of 2021, Williams said.

He expects staffing to be back where it needs to be by the end of 2024.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.