Cottonwood restores two police officer positions

Steve Gesell

Steve Gesell

COTTONWOOD – Two Cottonwood police officer positions were restored during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Mayor Tim Elinski said this was one area that the City couldn’t cut.

Due to the City’s budgetary constraints over the past several years, the police department has eliminated four police officers and one police dispatcher.

Recently, the police department has attracted two experienced candidates. Police Chief Steve Gesell has consulted with both City Manager Doug Bartosh and Deputy City Manager Rudy Rodriquez. They agreed that resources are available to fully fund both positions.

Current staffing levels

The Police Department has three officers currently on extended leave and one in the final stages of the hiring process for another agency. Chief Gesell said that existing staffing levels necessitate an improved ability to manage attrition and vacancies.

In addition to recruitment challenges, officers may be on extended medical and military leave; sick leave; in training; or on vacation. Some may be near retirement. Officers who are injured are also prohibited from working a patrol assignment for safety reasons. Employees are often times forced to fill shifts on their days off, which entails incurring overtime expenses. It is also detrimental to morale and can contribute to reduction in service and increased attrition rates, said Chief Gesell.

Hiring challenges

Police Chief Steve Gesell said it generally takes one year to complete the hiring process from recruitment through successful completion of field training before a new officer is permitted to fill a slot in a deployment roster. Despite the best efforts to attract and screen the best possible applicants, some do not graduate the police academy or successfully complete field training.

Chief Gesell said it is optimal to keep recruitment ongoing so “you are not behind the eight ball.”

Therefore, hiring of lateral officers (currently employed or recently employed as a police officer elsewhere) is desirable, provided they meet the department’s standards. Chief Gesell explained that lateral officers are beneficial due to their experience and greatly reduced training time. Historically, the Cottonwood Police Department experiences few lateral applicants.

“Fortunately, our police department has attracted two experienced lateral candidates,” said Chief Gesell.

One candidate has 20 years of officer experience in serving in Phoenix, and another candidate is a former Maryland officer who is currently working as a probation officer.

Funding

The police department had the authority, with the city manager’s approval, to restore one position, as illustrated in the City’s 2017-2018 budget.

The police department has the savings to restore two positions.

The General Fund would cover the costs of restoring the additional personnel through savings from officer vacancies, personnel out on medical leave, from additional Mingus SRO funding and our designated reserves. “These savings will cover the costs of the added police officers without putting a strain on the General Fund. Two officers for the remaining 10 months equates to $142,020,” stated a staff report from the department.

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