GJ Police Department losing officers to attrition

Two Grand Junction police officers check the trunk of a car during an incident in Grand Junction on Feb. 16.

Good help is hard to find currently at the Grand Junction Police Department.

So far this year the department has lost 10 police officers through attrition. In typical years, the department loses 10 officers over the course of an entire year.

While the department is authorized to have 109 officers, it’s currently at 101 officers. That is causing some officers who were assigned to special projects to return, at least temporarily, to more regular patrolling duties, Police Chief John Camper said.

“The problem isn’t the lack of authorized positions, it’s filling them,” Camper said at a meeting before Grand Junction city councilors last week.

But what the department has learned is that having officers in special assignment roles is a more effective way of policing. For example, creating a team to address the homeless and vagrant population and utilizing officers from the Community Advocacy Program changed policing tactics from being reactive to proactive, Camper said. It also attributed to a spike in overtime costs.

“Our folks are good sports,” Camper said about whether being short on officers is affecting morale. “Those who were in special assignments are there because they are good at it. We have those (units) because it’s a more effective way to police. None of us like it when have to pull back for a while.”

As it stands, the department has six hopeful officers in field training, a stage in which officers work alongside and shadow veteran police officers. Six other individuals are in the beginning stages of becoming officers, working their way through the police academy, Camper said.

Considering these potential new hires and other potential losses of officers, the department expects to reach its number of 109 authorized officers by next year, Camper said.

At 109 officers, the number of patrol officers will be increased by five. It will add one more officer to the drug task force for a total of four; it will add one more school resource officer to make four; and will add one more officer to the Community Advocacy Program, increasing it to two officers.

To illuminate the reasons why officers are leaving, the department is a taking a five-year look back at why officers leave the department and where they next find employment, Camper said.

Other internal changes are under way at the department. Last year officers worked 12-hour shifts, which was “a miserable failure,” Camper said. Officers sometimes ended up working up to 15-hour shifts trying to stay awake for court the next day or following up writing reports after their shifts.

“Before you know it, they weren’t getting any sleep at all,” Camper said.

A current schedule has officers working nine-hour shifts, but that scenario is creating too much overtime work, Camper said. Instead, the department is attempting to move to a four-day work week with 10-hour shifts. Officers run three shifts a day.

“What we found over the years is that the four-10s is the best combination in keeping overtime in check,” Camper said. “That’s when the shifts don’t have much overlap.”


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