We are consistently missing the heart of the matter when discussing public safety and sworn police officers in our city.
As I shared in the primary candidate forum held on April 18th, my coffee club video series published on April 21st, and in the primary Kokomo Tribune Candidate Questionnaire published on May 5th, public safety is a much broader and more complicated issue than we are currently discussing. Without including increased tactical and technical training, leadership training, technology, equipment, and mental health care, the number of officers is just a number.
To be clear, the current number of 79 sworn police officers is too few for our city. Here’s why:
- We need more sworn officers because approximately 40-50% of them will be eligible to retire in the next 2-3 years, and the job market for public safety, as well as the workforce in general, is extremely competitive at the moment. Given that the on-boarding time for the industry is at least a year before officers are prepared to patrol by themselves, it is imperative that we prioritize and focus on this need now. It is clear that there is interest in these positions, as currently there is a waiting list to go to the Police Academy for training.
- There are several methods of determining appropriate staffing numbers from per capita to crime rates to budgeting; however, none of them dig deep enough to be effective. When patrol officers spend close to or over 60% of their time responding to calls for service, they spend the rest of their time in a mindset turned toward response regardless of their other duties. Due to this, proactive community engagement and training simply cannot get their full attention. This is in no way a criticism, rather an explanation of the burnout officers are currently feeling. Increasing patrol levels, and patrol ratios relative to all sworn officers will directly benefit city taxpayers with more proactive community policing, which can directly reduce crime when combined with other successful interventions according to the International City/County Management Association.
We must act now and stop wasting our time looking in the rearview mirror, arguing, and comparing the size of our force to our neighbors’. I don’t care about comparisons; I care about Kokomo.
The public safety field has changed significantly over the last 15 years. If we are serious about ensuring public safety for the citizens of Kokomo, we need to invest in leadership training, talent attraction, and retention. We need to foster an authentic connection between officers and our community. We need to ensure an equitable hiring process. We need to genuinely value the work our officers do every day by holding ourselves accountable for our community role as citizens.
We need new leadership that looks toward the future and ensures that local government operates in service to the people of Kokomo. With your vote on November 5th, I will be that leader.
In your service,
Democratic Nominee for Mayor