Five officers either have resigned or put in for an earlier retirement since June 16 when the city council’s budget amendments left nine positions unfilled, Norman Police Department officials confirmed this week.
The council cut $865,000 from the NPD’s proposed 3.14% budget increase, which left a 0.034% increase from the previous year. The cut meant that open positions would not be filled.
NPD spokesman Brent Barbour said it loses on average 10 officers per year due to retirements and officers who move to other departments or leave the profession.
“While most of them are still pending exit interviews, none of the recent departures have specifically identified the recent council actions or national climate as their reasons for leaving,” he said. “Having five separations in such a short period of time is a very unique situation. Prior to these positions, we have had two resignations and two retirements in 2020.”
Norman police officers are considering other departments like Moore, its police department spokesman told The Transcript.
“We’ve heard from some Norman police officers who are planning to apply,” MPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said. “We’re not hiring right now, probably not until the end of July.”
Losing officers to other departments is nothing new, NPD Chief Kevin Foster said last week. Because the department offers three times the number of training hours required by the state, other departments which offer promotions or better pay are hungry to scoop them up, he said.
“The chief in Moore is Todd Gibson, who was one of our captains. The chief in Edmond, is J.D. Younger, who was one of our majors. They know how well we train here and they would be very thrilled to take some of those people to their departments,” Foster said.
A Benchmark Cities Survey, which compares Norman and 18 other cities across the region, shows an average of 100 hours of training per officer. Norman officers average 105 hours of training. In Edmond, the average is 90 and in Broken Arrow it is 64. Moore was not included in the survey.
Changes in the number of NPD authorized officers also means that Foster may not be able to afford to offer an academy, which is comprised of 10 to 12 officers, he said. With nine positions cut and a force at 171 officers, Foster will not be able to hire until the number of open positions drops even further.
“Normally, by the time I got to 170, I would have an academy of 10 or 12 and hopefully all 12 of those make it to the street,” Foster said. “That’s about a 15-month process, so it’s a long cycle out. We’ll be down to 171 (by the end of July), and then when we lose people from that, we’ll be even lower, down to 160 or the 150s by the time we’re able to have an academy, if I’m able to have an academy then. Hopefully, we can somehow maintain the level of service that we currently have.”
NPD’s Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Wasoski said the cuts will mean more officers will leave.
He said the department fields nearly twice the number of calls compared to other communities. Wasoski referred to a Benchmark Cities Survey, which compares 29 cities of similar size and demographics including Norman.
“You take nine officers away, the number of officers that are available to take calls, to respond to calls on top of the fact that if you look at the Benchmark Cities that were compared, the average calls for service per 1,000 citizens is 452.7. Norman is the highest of all the cities at 779.6 calls. So, we’re almost double the average calls per service of 1,000 citizens. So, we’re overworked as it is. Even with the number of officers we have now, there has been a decrease in crime. You take away nine people, that number (decrease in crime) starts to falter and even more calls for service for remaining officers.”
The survey revealed Edmond fields only 393.3 calls while Broken Arrow receives 421.2. The average number of crimes in the study is 42.3 per 1,000 residents with Norman rated 66.5—above the average and Edmond’s 50.2. Broken Arrow’s crime average was not tracked.
The NPD’s clearance rate, or the rate of solved crimes, is 60%, just above the 57.6% average.
Prior to the unfilled positions, the NPD held 1.44 officers per 1,000 residents, just above the 1.41 average noted in the survey. It also reveals that 15.6% of its officers are eligible to retire.