SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Policy changes are being made at the Springfield Police Department with hopes of hiring the next generation of qualified officers.
As of Jan. 20, the department is down 33 out of more than 350 officers. Experts say there just aren’t as many people willing to put on the uniform.
The Missouri governor reminded newly-inducted Highway Patrol troopers about the difficulty of their jobs Wednesday, Jan. 20.
“It’s been a daunting task, to say the least when it comes to civil unrest, when it comes to COVID-19, when it comes to natural disasters, all the things, you guys are on the front lines,” said Governor Mike Parson.
At a local level, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said he is facing major staffing challenges in 2021.
“We’ve weathered that negative storm around policing in the country very well here by continuing to track recruits, and it’s finally caught up to us now,” said Williams. “We’re starting to see fewer applicants and less qualified applicants.”
Williams said the department hasn’t lowered its hiring standards but has relaxed specific requirements, including the tattoo policy. However, ink above the shoulders or anywhere objectionable is not allowed.
“The very simple change is we’re going to allow an officer to wear a short-sleeve shirt if he or she has arm tattoos,” said Williams.
The Springfield police chief said new officers’ salaries will be higher than ever.
“The starting pay for a police officer in Springfield is over $40,000 a year, kind of a threshold we’ve been trying to get to, and we’re there now,” said Williams.
Williams said there are discussions to relax the policy on marijuana use before officers join the force since the department recruits nationwide.