Columbia police looking to boost morale and fix staffing issue

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COLUMBIA- Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton says he has a tired staff, and is trying to do something about it.

Starting Jan. 15, Burton says officers will move from 12 hour shifts to 10, noting that the 12 hour shifts are mentally and physically draining. The department is hoping the switch will allow officers to have more time with their families and give them every other weekend off. 

Chief Burton is on board to boost morale, but is not sure this is the most effective plan. 

"10 hour shifts by themselves take 15 percent more resources, which there is no secret we don't have a lot of extra resources, so the officers are going to be working harder. It could actually affect response times for citizens," Burton said. 

Staffing is another concern facing the CPD. Right now there are 19 vacancies, five officers are in the academy, eight are in field training, 11 are injured and 11 can retire. For the five officers in the academy, there is no guarantee they will make it through and even if they do, Chief Burton said it takes three years until an officer is "comfortable." 

Chief Burton said he understands it is not a great time to be an officer and that is affecting staffing. 

"I have got to believe and I know there are a lot of family members going 'why are you doing this work?'"

Deputy chief Jill Schlude said hiring has gone virtual in an effort to reach out to more potential officers. 

"Resources has very generously added more processes for us this, when we all started here," Schlude said.

But it's still a slow process to get the officer into the field. 

"There is a very regimented process for being a police officer in, there is a background check, we visit their home usually, we talk to a lot of different probably talking nine months to a year," Schlude said.