APD, city looks for ways to attract police candidates – Austin Daily Herald


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Austin has to hire cops, but they don’t get applications.

It was at the heart of a working session Monday evening after the regular meeting of the city council. Reflecting a state and nationwide problem, the Austin Police Department has seen a strong downward trend in the number of applicants in recent months.

For two open positions, APD received only one candidate. Police Chief David McKichan told council members this is emblematic of what many departments are seeing.

“Right now we’re facing a scenario that I think is going to last a few years,” McKichan said. “Hiring agents, finding candidates is a struggle for all agencies. I know of a service that got no response.

There is also a shortage of numbers in the ranks of students, as fewer of them enroll in law enforcement programs.

Although nothing was decided on Monday night, McKichan and human resources director Trish Weichmann advocated dropping the 30-minute response time as a way to attract more applicants to the city.

Austin is one of the few departments in the area that still has response time, forcing agents to live within a 30-minute drive of the community.

Weichmann told the board that at least one claimant withdrew his application because he knew he would live outside of that 30-minute requirement.

If the board chose to remove the requirement, then hopefully more population centers would open up, deepening Austin’s own pool of candidates.

“At least that would put us on an equal footing with other communities,” Weichmann said. “Our request is to completely eliminate the 30-minute response time. “

In the ensuing conversation, the board seemed receptive to the idea and included possible incentives that might encourage agents to move into the community.

City Councilor Joyce Poshusta said she had heard concerns in the past about agents not living in the community, but ultimately said she didn’t see much of a problem removing the requirement.

“We help the quality and the quantity that we get,” Poshusta said. “There have been concerns in the past that our officers live in the community. Even though we get agents that are out of our response time, they are very involved in our community. “

Councilor Mike Postma, while tentatively in favor of abolishing the 30-minute response times, has raised concerns that officers are not part of the community they serve and are not making that connection.

“I had a little trouble with this one,” Postma said. “I don’t like forcing people to quote-no, to live in our city, but I don’t think 30 minutes is unreasonable. I don’t know if that will bring us a ton of candidates. I struggle with the idea of ​​not having officers living in Austin.

Discussions ultimately turned to possible incentives to get agents to apply. This broke down into two ways:

• Referral Incentive: A City of Austin employee who recommends someone, who then applies and is successful, would result in the employee receiving the incentive.

• Student loan repayment: Any candidate who can prove that they have student loan debts upon leaving college would receive up to $ 5,000 in expense repayments. $ 2,500 would be paid upon successful hiring, with the remaining $ 2,500 paid at the end of the one-year trial period.

This second incentive could also, in theory, be applied to established agents moving to Austin, but instead of repayment of the loan, it would be applied to moving expenses.

“I don’t see schools producing enough students to fill places in Southeast Minnesota,” McKichan explained.

Yet the goal remains to ensure that agents are part of the community in one way or another.

“The objective is not only to hire agents,” said city councilor Oballa Oballa. “At the end of the day, they have to connect with the community.”

In other news:

• It has been announced that in addition to the $ 1.3 million dollar second round of the upcoming US stimulus package in 2022, the city of Austin will receive additional funding of $ 43,718.90 in ARP funding. The money comes from $ 12.7 million in unclaimed ARP funds allocated to the state of Minnesota.

• The City’s Tax Truth Meeting is Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council Chamber.

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