BRENTWOOD -- The City Council began a comprehensive review this week of the police department's sworn officer staffing levels compared with the department's budgeted sworn positions over the past five years.
Like other police agencies statewide, Brentwood has seen a major decline in the available pool of qualified police officer candidates and a rising number of officers who are on disability leave related to their jobs. Another factor is the department's rigorous and time-consuming hiring process, according to city officials.
The city is operating with 50 sworn positions, 12 below its budgeted allocation, according to police Chief Mark Evenson. Six new officers are in various stages of training, he said.
"This challenge is not unique to Brentwood," Evenson said.
The allocation of 62 sworn officers has been the standard since 2004, Evenson noted.
"There is no question that we are at a critically low point in staffing levels," he said.
When patrol shortages occur, they are filled through voluntary or mandatory overtime, Evenson noted. This fiscal year, the department has spent $39,908 on these overtime obligations, a 42 percent increase from the beginning of the previous year.
The council agreed that overstaffing could be an option for tackling this ongoing staffing fluctuation issue.
"Having the ability for overhiring is going to address very effectively the fluctuation issue we have," Brentwood Vice Mayor Joel Bryant said.
A council subcommittee will study the fiscal implications of various staffing scenarios. Another area of focus will be trying to make the department more desirable to new officers through a hiring incentive.
"In a difficult era, we are trying to compete with some agencies that have better retirement and medical," Bryant said.
The council will also explore hiring additional officers immediately to bring the number of sworn officers to 66.