Tacoma Police Department is utilizing a variety of tactics to retain current employees and recruit future workers. Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Assistant Chief Ed Wade gave a presentation on the topic to Tacoma City Council during the Jan. 29 study session.
TPD is budgeted for 402 positions. Of these, 360 are commissioned and 42 are non-commissioned. The budget for 2019-20 calls for adding three patrol officers in July and another two next January. Currently, 78 officers, or 23 percent of the work force, are eligible for retirement. In three years, this number will be 96; in five years it will be 107.
TPD had five recruitment classes last year. Between 15 and 23 percent of the groups were women. The percentage of white applicants ranged from 51 to 58 percent.
TPD developed human interest stories and social media outreach with a community relations specialist. Opportunities for practice attempts at the oral board and physical agility tests were offered. Last year efforts were made to include more women and minority officers in recruitment efforts. Last June, a forum on women in law enforcement was offered.
This May, TPD will offer its physical test in Ellensburg. Wade said this is a way for the department to assess the logistics involved in taking its testing on the road and expand the geographic reach of recruiting. Ellensburg, the home of Central Washington University, was chosen because of the strong reputation of its criminal justice program. Recruitment advertisements have run in the Seattle Medium, a newspaper aimed at African-American readers.
“The techniques used to hire the chief and I 30 years ago are not going to work now,” Wade observed.
Councilmember Chris Beale inquired about a recent survey on morale within the department. Ramsdell said he ordered the study recently. Members of the department were trained on facilitation techniques, then sent out to meet with their peers. He said people in supervisory roles were not involved, in order to gain more candid feedback. Among the findings was that many officers were unhappy with the fitness room. As a result, renovations were made. “We are trying to be responsive to our employees’ needs,” he remarked.
The chief said there are a variety of reasons why people leave the department. Some go into traditional retirement. Some leave for other departments, others go into different occupations. A few are terminated.
Councilmember Conor McCarthy noted that police officers in Tacoma can start out with an annual compensation of $67,000 a year. “We offer a good wage to be a public servant here.”
Mayor Victoria Woodards said TPD is making progress in recruiting. “We are not where we want to be, but we are not where we used to be.”