The Bloomington Police Department (BPD) staffing shortage is forcing the Indiana agency to run a tight ship.
In an interview with The Herald Times, BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff explained that the department is using a few strategies to compensate for the thinned ranks, from airtight scheduling to offering volunteering bonuses.
The chief said that BPD officers can expect to work one double shift, sometimes for 16 hours straight, for every five regular assigned shifts.
In addition, Diekhoff reduced the number of officers per shift from 10 to eight. If there aren’t enough officers available to be on call, supervisors will offer overtime and extra pay for volunteers.
“We have to mandate overtime, or we can bring people in early or ask them to stay late,” Diekhoff said. “We usually don’t hold them an entire extra shift.”
The police chief said that a major incident could require more resources than are available.
“It takes one major event, a disaster or a crime, that could put us in an extremely difficult position if we had all of our people on that,” Diekhoff said. “A shooting, one major event, can sidetrack the majority of officers on a shift.”
However, Mayor John Hamilton insisted that the community was well-protected, despite less-than-ideal police staff numbers.
“There are seven area law enforcement agencies that serve Monroe County. In times of high demand, we frequently assist with each other’s calls, as needed,” the mayor said.
“While the current staffing numbers are not ideal, the public is still well protected thanks to the high degree of professionalism and dedication of our police department,” he added.
Since the staffing shortage, there have been two emergency situations that diverted all BPD officers.
One included a false report of an active shooting at a football game, and the other was a real active shooting near a strip shopping mall on West Third Street that attracted all eight BPD patrol officers, two BPD sergeants and three Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies.
The Bloomington City Council has requested that the mayor increase BPD’s pay by $5,000 to decrease officer turnover so they can respond to emergency situations and engage in proactive policing — something they cannot do without adequate manpower.
“We’re hamstringing officers from doing a vital part of their job,” Council member Dave Rollo said. “And I think … it’s a disservice to our community to not have proactive policing. But that’s what we’ve built into this particular budget.”
In response, Hamilton said has already proposed a $500,000 public safety investment for police recruiting and retention.
According to data from the Novak Consulting Group, the BPD’s budget has increased 12% in the past four years.