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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Maintaining Police Department Staffing Remains a Challenge

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – The challenge of recruiting and retaining police officers is seemingly constant.
At the Dec. 20 Stone Harbor Council meeting, Police Chief Thomas Schutta informed the governing body that two full-time officers would soon be leaving the department. He said one has filed an intent to retire and the other is leaving law enforcement for a different career path.
This came as the borough had two new officers in the police academy, expected to join the force in January. Two Special Law Enforcement Officers (Class II) were serving in the interim. Now with the loss of two more from the ranks of the full-time force, the Class IIs will remain with the department even when the new officers graduate from their training program. The search process for hiring two, new full-time officers will begin. The council approved a resolution extending the authorization for the two special officers through March 31, 2023.
Police staffing problems are playing out in departments across the state. Last year the president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association called recruiting and keeping officers “our biggest challenge.” The Police Executive Research Forum said 2021 showed an increase of 44% in retirements and 18% in resignations among police officers nationwide.
Increases in retirements and resignations, a smaller applicant pool, job complications due to police reform directives, and a strong job market in non-law enforcement areas all contribute to the challenge according to Police1.com, a law enforcement industry focused website.
In shore communities that also depend on special officers to augment staffing during busy tourist periods, the ability to recruit those officers is also increasingly difficult. Schutta told the borough council that although the recruitment efforts are already underway, the current number of applicants is not very promising.
Stone Harbor will staff its police department in 2023 but the difficulties experienced in Stone Harbor and other communities in Cape May County has made police recruitment and retention one of the biggest issues facing many shore towns.

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