Springfield police in tactical gear at the scene in the 2800 block of South Barnes Ave. on Springfield's southwest side April 3, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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By Jeremiah Soria, for the Hauxeda

The city of Springfield has historically had an understaffed police force. Continuing from late 2023 to now, there are 57 vacancies — 25 above average.

For this year, the Springfield Police Department implemented a new recruitment campaign in hope of attracting higher quality recruits in larger volumes. New recruitment videos, paid marketing and organic social media posts are intended to reach candidates who would make good police officers.

With this recruiting campaign and viewing process, Police Chief Paul Williams said, “(We don’t want) to make it easier, but make sure that we're doing everything we can to make sure that everyone is successful through the process instead of losing them along the way.”

Recent police academy and crime data

Data from the Springfield Police Department shows the 77th and 78th Academy classes had 411 applicants with 109 advancing to the interview stage of recruitment. Eighty-two would pass the first interview as the numbers would fall to 35 being hired.

Williams says the goal for each recruiting class is to hire 20-25 people with a max of 35 hires allowed. The numbers from the past two classes would indicate this goal not being met before SPD begins its new recruiting process.

Gun crimes overall have decreased after peaking in 2020. The police department points to a focus on reducing gun violence and gun crime in 2023 as a reason for the decrease.

Despite these efforts, the police staffing shortage issue is evident elsewhere in Springfield’s crime reports.

In recent years, the clearance of crimes against persons and crimes against society have decreased due to staffing issues.

“As we’re able to staff back up, patrol comes first and then staffing up those investigative units to get them where they should be,” Williams said.

This means less time is being put into investigating crimes, resulting in certain issues spreading so long they become harder to manage and solve.

New campaign details; benefits and enticement

Williams and the Springfield City Council discussed the specifics of this new campaign as a three-step effort.

SPD will continue to advertise at a local level with Springfield-based media and organizations. There will be state and nationwide advertisements to entice potential recruits to come to Greene County and serve. 

Springfield police are implementing a student loan reimbursement program as an incentive for new and lateral hires. SPD and the City of Springfield's human resources department are exploring the possibility of adding a child care benefit plan.

Springfield would be one of three locations in the United States that offers daycare for police officers’ children. Williams said child-specific issues are one of the main reasons officers must end their time with the department, due to time conflict and child care situations. 

Looking forward for the rest of 2024

Recruitment for the 79th Academy is set to begin in September. While in the academy, recruits will spend six months completing 1,073 hours of law enforcement training.

Upon graduation, each recruit works with an experienced field-training officer for about 640 hours of on-the-job training.

Williams and the City Council have expressed high hopes for the new campaign efforts.

For more information, visit GOSPD to learn more.

This story is made possible by the Hauxeda's partnership with students studying public affairs reporting in the Department of Communication, Media, Journalism and Film in the Missouri State University School of Communication. Student reporters work under the direction of Missouri State University senior instructor Jack Dimond.

Editor's note: This story has been clarified in reference to the Springfield Police Department's exploration of child care benefits and student loan reimbursement.