Tacoma Police Department remains busy on the recruitment front, as it works to build up a corps of younger officers who will eventually replace veteran officers at or near retirement age. Tacoma City Council heard an update on the topic during the Aug. 6 study session from Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Assistant Chief Ed Wade.
TPD is budgeted at 405 positions, with 363 being commissioned officers and 42 people as non-commissioned personnel. As of July 31, the department had six commissioned vacancies. It has hired, or is giving final offers of employment, to 28 suitable applicants. Of these, nine are women. The hiring goal was for a total of 42 positions.
Of the groups of applicants so far this year, the first one had 21.3 percent women. The second group was 12 percent and the third 17.4 percent. Overall, 85.3 percent of TPD’s commissioned officers are male, while females make up 75 percent of the civilian staff.
In regard to the status of new hires, 48 are currently on probation in patrol, with 15 currently in patrol training and the remaining 33 in the last phase and on their own in patrol. Five are currently at the academy, with 14 entry-level recruits set to enroll in the academy before the end of the year.
TPD is dealing with the fact that many officers are at or close to retirement age. Currently there are 93 officers, or 26 percent of the force, eligible for retirement. This number will increase to 124 in three years and 139 in five years. Wade said this reflects the big wave of hiring in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the city was struggling with an increase in gang activity and drug dealing. Some of the officers hired during that era are now nearing retirement.
In 2017 TPD had 27 hires and 25 separations. In 2018 it had 30 hires and 25 separations. So for this year, it has 23 hires and 13 separations. Wade said that in general, officers are not leaving TPD to become officers in other departments. “And we want to keep it that way.”
TPD compiles data on the ethnic background of applicants. The first group this year had white applicants in the largest amount at 42.1 percent, followed by blacks at 13.7 percent and Hispanics at 11.7 percent. The second group had whites at 46 percent, and the third had whites at 53 percent. Wade noted that the data is from information provided by applicants. He noted many are now checking two or more races, while other applicants leave it blank. “We as an organization are trying to figure out how best to collect this information,” he remarked.
So far this year, TPD has conducted recruiting activities on the campus of Washington State University in April, they were at the Women of Justice panel at Pierce College in April, the Diversity Employment and Career Fair in Bellevue in July, an event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Ethnic Fest in Wright Park, both in July. The next physical test is scheduled for Aug. 9, with 172 applicants invited.