The Beardstown City Council has approved a lateral transfer program for its police department. The department has been understaffed for a better part of a year.
Beardstown Police Chief Martin Coad says that he has been operating at bare bones for awhile now, slowing down response times to emergency calls: “We have a department capability of 12 officers, and right now, I’ve got 4 not including myself. My guys are getting extremely tired. I can’t praise them enough for the dedication they have given to this department and this city just by hanging in here. My guys are out there as much as they possibly can be. Where it affects us the most is in time getting to the call because we’ve only got one person [on duty]. If there is 2 or 3 calls at the same time, you’ve got to take the priority calls first.”
Coad says that the lateral transfer effort was spearheaded by Mayor Tim Harris to get the department into a better staffing level. Coad says the program, which is a memorandum of understanding with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, went into effect on Sunday. he program involves a wage matrix and longevity steps as well as bonuses recently approved at a special city council meeting this past Tuesday. Coad says it gives a number of bonuses for officers who stay with Beardstown: “You’ve got to have 2 years of certified, full-time experience with another department. Then, you can come in at a 2-year level – after Step 1 is what they call it. Three years will bring you in after Step 2 and so on and so forth up to 7 years. They’ll give you a relocation incentive if you move within 20 miles of Beardstown City Hall for $1,000. Then, there is a one-time bonus of $1,500 to be paid to full-time officers after you clear your probationary period, and then, a one-time bonus to a full-time officer after you’ve completed the first year. Then, there is a one-time bonus of $3,000 to a full-time officer who has completed 2 full years, and then, another $3,000 to bonus to full-time officers if you’ve completed 3 full years at this department.”
Coad says the department has been making due with call coverage and patrols with help from the Cass County Sheriff’s Department especially on shifts that are extremely busy. Coad says it’s been costing Beardstown extra money because they have to pay the deputies for overtime to pull away from their regular patrols with the sheriff’s department.
Coad says he is looking to hire between 6-8 new officers. He says that the Beardstown Police will be attending job fairs at Western Illinois University and in the Quad Cities in the coming months in efforts to recruit officers from college criminal justice programs and officers from surrounding communities.