BRANSON, Mo. – At yesterday’s study session of the Branson Board of Aldermen, Assistant Police Chief Eric Schmitt pleaded with city leaders for pay increases to retain enough staff to protect the community.
“It is embarrassing at this point that we are so behind, and the officers that you see back there have stayed with us because they believe in us,” said Schmitt.
The assistant chief of police claims that the department is short-staffed, and in over his thirty years of experience policing, it has never been harder to recruit new officers.
“We are woefully behind all the surrounding agencies in the area that we compete with, and they are all hiring,” said Schmitt. “With the inflation rate right now, our officers every year they choose to stay with Branson lose spending ability.”
During the meeting, Alderman Clay Cooper asked an important question that received a scary response from the assistant police chief.
“There are times when there’s not enough staff to cover all four sectors at one time?” asked Alderman Cooper. “Correct,” answered Schmitt.
Branson Mayor Larry Milton also agreed with the assistant police chief’s assessment.
“I think we’re in a crisis mode with our police department,” said Mayor Milton.
One city leader who didn’t agree was City Administrator Stan Dobbins.
“Honesty is a big thing with me,” said Dobbins. “The police department is not in crisis mode.”
The former Branson Police Chief then expanded on his disagreement.
“Secondly Mr. Mayor, I could care less if you agree with me or not,” said Dobbins. “I’ve been a policeman for 43 years. I have done this job far more than some of the kids that are downstairs that don’t know what being a policeman is about evidently. But the thing of it is, we want everybody here to be compensated appropriately, but you have to have the revenue source first and there is no money set aside that you can just hand out to make it happen overnight.”
KOLR 10 reached out to the City of Branson for interviews today with City Administrator Stan Dobbins, Asst. Police Chief Eric Schmitt, and Finance Director Jaimie Rouch. The city declined all interviews but sent a written response from City Administrator Stan Dobbins that states:
“The twelve departments within the City of Branson’s municipal government do an excellent job of providing vital, consistent, and exceptional service to our residents and community every day. Each department is staffed with dedicated professionals who swore an oath to take care of our great city and place the city above self. We routinely evaluate and assess the needs of the twelve departments to perform the functions required by the city with a focus on stewardship of our taxpayer’s dollars. Staffing and wages continue to be a complex topic for not only police departments and municipalities across the Nation, but also for businesses as we all try to keep up with the rising cost of living and economic swings. The City of Branson City Administration is encouraged by some of the discussions at the Study Session on October 21, 2021, and look forward to working with each department, the Mayor, the Board of Aldermen, and the community to continue the excellent service our area has come to expect.”
You can watch the full meeting here – https://youtu.be/YXDaziT5tuM
According to the Branson city website, the starting salary of a police officer is about $33,639 before benefits.
In August, The Springfield Police Department was struggling to find recruits and decided to raise the salary for recruits to $20 per hour- approximately a two-dollar increase.
Once recruits graduate, they will make about $46,000 per year.
The recruitment efforts are working, and now the Springfield Police Department has filled 9 of their 50 sworn officer positions.
“We had 53 people sign up to take our agility and written test last Friday,” Major Stacey Parton said. “This is the highest number of candidates many of us can remember testing at one time in probably the last 10 or 15 years.”
At the end of August, the Kimberling City Police Chief resigned, with the rest of the department quickly following his lead.
Some of the officers cited pay issues as one of the reasons they decided to resign.
The city has since hired Todd Lemoine, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, as the new police chief.