OGDEN — It’s not a revelation to say the Ogden Police Department continues to struggle with recruitment and retention issues, as evidenced by an ongoing shortfall in staffing.
But the department’s police chief and a representative from OPD’s benefit association recently told the Ogden City Council that there is at least some sunlight poking through the clouds.
The department is currently staffed with somewhere around 175 employees and, according to Chief Eric Young and Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, typically operates at a deficit of anywhere from eight to 18 officers short of a full staff. But Young and Sgt. Shane Keys, with the Ogden Police Benefit Association, both told the council Tuesday that the trend could be starting to change.
“Recruiting and hiring is No. 1 on the agenda. ... The No. 1 issue throughout the Police Department is getting fully staffed,” Young said Tuesday. “It’s one of our challenges right now, make no doubt about it. It’s a challenge for every police department across the state and others more than us right now. ... We’re not only steadying the ship, we’re starting to trend in the right direction.”
Young said the apparent shift is driven by a multitude of factors, including efforts like hiring a part-time recruitment specialist and increased advertising. He said the department currently has six conditional offers for employment in process right now.
Likely the most significant component to the situation, according both Young and Keys, is compensation.
Last year, amid COVID-19-related economic concerns, Ogden City suspended requisite 4% percent pay raises for city employees, including police officers. After city revenues performed better than expected, the raises were reinstated in April and employees got retroactive back pay for the months they went without the increases. And as part of the mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, all public safety employees, which includes those who work in the police and fire departments, will see the customary, 4% percent raises and step pay increases as well.
“It made all the difference in the world in building faith for our employees that we’re going to follow through with what we commit to,” Young said.
The city is also set to implement recommendations from a recent compensation study, which will bump up the salary ranges for all OPD employees. Another phase recommended in the study will likely be implemented next fiscal year, which will increase ranges another level. Young said that bump would finally make OPD employee pay correspond with the number of years of service they’ve put in.
“We’re starting to see surrounding police agencies that, for lack of a better term, have heard what is going on and are jealous of the Ogden Police Department, and I think that’s a great thing,” Keys said.
In a total reversal of what has been happening in recent years, Young and Keys said they’re also hearing from police officers in Salt Lake County who are looking to move to Ogden.
“We’ve had quite a few people reach out, interested in leaving Salt Lake and coming to Ogden, or coming back to Ogden,” Keys said.
Keys suggested that the council this year set in motion the additional pay range bump, beyond the initial one that is already recommended in the mayor’s fiscal year 2021-2022 budget. Young said he understood that would likely be too big of a lift this year, but also noted he couldn’t stress how important it is that the step is implemented during next year’s budget season.