Both Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker and Fire Chief Bruce Cline claimed the youth of the their employees was both a strength and a weakness in budget hearings at the May 10 city council meeting.
“Forty percent are at or below four years,” Thacker said. “We’ve hired 36 officers since 2012.”
The challenge of hiring officers if compounded by increasingly negative perceptions of police, decreased applications for police jobs and decreasing ability to hire “laterals” or officers of experience from other agencies.
He also said this further compounds the problem of expenses of the police department. Thacker said it costs just under $118,000 to evaluate, hire, train and equip new officers.
Thacker said there is not an incentive for officers with experience in other agencies to work for Sandy City because of a diminished and drawn out pay scale as compared to other police departments.
Thacker also noted that about 30 percent of the police force could retire in the next three years and up to 50 percent of the force could retire in 10 years.
The police budget increased to compensate for the addition of a new officer to the force, bringing the number of officers to 112.
Councilman Stephen Smith noted that with the retirements and the desire to increase to the police for to 130 in the next ten years means a growth of 50 percent of new officers in Sandy. He also questioned the apparent policy to hire new officers when other officers leave rather than incentivizing officers to stay as an effective policy.
Thacker said that his budget proposes adjusting pay rates for new and slightly experienced officers as well as creating a master officer position to which experienced officers could be promoted to.
"We have the best employees in the state," Cline said. He also continued to note that the greatest strength of the fire department was its current set of employees.
Cline said that the city may not have to purchase a new fire ambulance for the next 15 years. The purchases of a dismountable ambulance box allows, Cline said, to essentially get a new truck for an ambulance when the old one is no longer serviceable.
Cline also said an opportunity and weakness for the department is the new wildfire bill, SB 122, which will provide funds for municipalities to fight wildfires only if they conform to certain requirements including fire prevention and a “cooperative agreement.”
He also hopes to engage in revitalizing the now defunct volunteer program.
He noted that wildland in the Wasatch and in Dimple Dell areas are a major threat and proposed a new 100 foot, single axle truck. He wants this additional large truck as a way to provide some equipment for ladder trucks, which the fire department relies on other cities to provide.