FLUSHING TWP. — The Board of Trustees has approved a new policy to keep the Flushing Township Police Department adequately staffed with officers.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, the board voted 5-2 in favor of a resolution that will ensure budgeting for 10 full-time police officers in the township. Supervisor Fred Thorsby, Clerk Wendy Meinburg, Treasurer Terry Peck, Trustee Sharilynn Willette and Trustee Bill Bain voted for the policy, while Trustee William Westenbarger and Trustee Linda Minarik voted against the resolution.
Supervisor Thorsby said that in years past, the board had an unwritten rule that allowed the township police chief to hire up to 10 full-time officers. Having a written policy, however, will now make the practice official and covered in future budgets.
“This new policy wouldn’t cut out the township board’s authority to approve the hiring of officers,” Thorsby said. “We’re just telling the chief ahead of time that he will have budgeted positions.”
Flushing Township Police Chief Mark Bolin said that the new written policy will help him with long-range hiring goals, especially if a sudden vacancy occurs in his department. Bolin currently has eight full-time officers in his department and is planning to add a ninth officer.
“If someone on my force retires or leaves for another job, this will help us to act immediately and fill the open position,” he said. “Having another officer will also help us to cover days off and backfill our swing shifts.”
Bolin said that budgeting for 10 officers will be even more supportive in case two officers leave the force or retire around the same time, giving his department more breathing room to recruit and hire replacements.
“It’s become increasingly difficult to find and retain good officers,” he said. “By the time you do a background check and complete field training, several months have already passed. Other departments can swoop in with incentives and better packages to attract good, experienced officers that you’re trying to retain.
“Supply and demand in the market for police officers is tight, with a lot of demand and very little supply,” Bolin added.
In the past, Bolin said that his department relied heavily on part-time officers to cover sick time and vacation days for full-time staff. But with qualified police officers becoming harder to find, Bolin said his third shift officers are having to accumulate a lot of overtime, which is putting a strain on the department budget.
“The commitment from part timers just isn’t there anymore in law enforcement,” he said. “We need to hire a full timer who is required to work and will fill the swing shifts and time off.”
With the new policy in place, Bolin said that he expects to hire a ninth full time officer soon and bring him/her to the board for approval.