COLORADO, USA — Staffing levels at the Aurora Police Department (APD) are at a critical level – more than 150 officers have left since January 2020. Resignations are the highest they've been since at least 2017, with months left in this year.
"I would say staffing shortages are at a critical problem for us," said APD Chief Deputy Darin Parker.
Violent crime is rising in the city of Aurora at a time when its police department is down about 50 officers. Chief deputy Parker is worried about the number of police officers leaving right now. He's calling it a serious safety issue.
"There are more calls for service than we have officers to adequately respond," said Parker.
Specialized units, like narcotics and SWAT, are being cut down. Calls for help that aren't as urgent are also piling up because there are fewer officers to respond to them.
Calls that are in progress or violent are a higher priority than property crimes that aren't in progress.
"There's not enough officers, so the calls start to stack up and wait," said Parker.
"Now we are having calls for service pending for five to six hours sometimes, sometimes even longer," said Marc Sears, president of Aurora's police union.
Sears believes there are a number of reasons the city is losing its officers. He said recent legislation and the current climate is making officers leave the profession.
"Their families are coming to them and going, do something else," he said. "The community itself is taking a stance that does not allow us to believe that we have a partnership with them."
Concerns about new state law and the future of policing were top reasons for officer departures, according to a statewide survey released in March. More than 70% of agencies that responded also said they are facing a staffing shortage.
The same survey, conducted by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the County Sheriffs of Colorado (CSOC), found half of agencies experiencing a shortage said the shortage is greater than a year ago.
Parker said the APD is still filling academies, but the survey found nearly 70% of respondents saw the number of applications go down from a year ago.
"I am very concerned about the community because I think they are feeling like they are not getting the quality of service, the rapid responses we would normally provide to them," said Sears.
Numbers from the Denver Police Department (DPD) show they're struggling too. In mid-May, the department had 74 vacancies, which was an increase from the end of 2020. The department saw fewer officers leave in 2020 than 2019, but this year is on pace to at least meet 2019's number.
DPD had 129 officers leave from January 2020 to mid-May. Almost half of those departures were either resignations or terminations.
On Monday, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson revealed during a study session with city council members that the police department was down roughly 50 officers.
As of mid-July, 38 officers had resigned from the department this year. For comparison, 31 officers resigned from the department in all of 2020.
Out of the 159 officers that have left APD since January, 43% of those were resignations and 40% were retirements.
"Every day we are putting our heads together trying to figure out how we are going to deal with this," said Parker.
To fill these gaps, Chief Wilson is hoping to hire civilian officers to handle some duties, like non-fatal car crash reports. The department is also holding multiple smaller academics to get new officers in faster.
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