More shocking than Police Chief Craig Alexander resigning the Kimberling City, Mo. police force this week, was that the entire department quit along with him.
According to Bob Fritz, the mayor of Kimberling, Police Chief Craig Alexander left to work with the Branson West Police Department on Aug. 23, citing dissatisfaction with pay and occupational support. All of the other officers at the Kimberling City Police Station later agreed, with the city losing three officers, a sergeant and the chief of police.
Police Chief Craig Alexander told the Mayor that the station had too many unqualified officers and that his career felt stagnant. Fritz called their chose to leave “unexpected, and the short notice disappointing.”
“I didn’t know there were that many openings in Branson West because we didn’t see an advertisement for police,” Mayor Bob Fritz told Fox News. “We’re looking for officers, we’re looking for a new police chief and I think we’ll be fine.”
Others, however, do not share the same optimism as Kimberling Mayor Bob Fritz, who may just be putting on a brave face for the city’s major policing issue.
Doug Rader, sheriff of Stone County, Mo., said that, “It will be a struggle to fill the police department back up with qualified officers, but hopefully they can start working on that soon and get that accomplished.”
All calls to the Kimberling City Police Department will go through to Rader over in Stone County, but he claimed that his department is not equipped or equally staffed to deal with Kimberling should an issue arise.
“We will be answering all the calls in Kimberling City,” he explained. “We can’t enforce city ordinances, but any other calls we will be handling at this time.”
Rader also informed The Independent that the issue of qualified staff members and officers was not unique to Kimberling. All across the country, he said, police departments are struggling with staffing issues.
He cited a case in Phoenix where senior officials have complained about under qualified officers since 2000. Speaking with the local ABC News affiliate on Wednesday, Phoenix Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurkenbach revealed that, “We’re losing on average 11 more than we’re hiring every month.”
“That’s a significant number,” he said, “and it’s not a number seeing a turnaround.”
According to The Independent, the city is offering a $7,500 signing bonus to any officers who are qualified to join the force, but no evidence has proven that it’s a helpful tactic, or that the extra signing bonus is even working by drawing in potential officers.
In Seattle, the city is having a similar staffing issue, claiming a loss of hundreds of officers this year alone.
“Over the past 17 months, the Seattle Police Department has lost 250 police officers, which is the equivalent of over 300,000 service hours,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in an official press conference. “As a city, we cannot continue on this current trajectory of losing police officers. We’re on path to losing 300 police officers.”
Even in New York, around 2,600 officers retired in 2020, with retirement in the field up by 45 percent. According to The New York Times, recent events such as protests to police brutality have halted interest in police work all together.
Especially in major cities, officers are often spread too thin, and are called on various assignments throughout their shift from dealing with the homeless, animal control, and people struggling with addiction, or mental illness.
Critics argue that while lack of staffing is definitely an issue, it provides police forces with a kind of clean slate, where authorities may be able to restaff their stations with new ideas of what would make a good police officer in 2021 that are coming out of recent movements all across the country.