A request to hire two new probationary officers in the Jacksonville Police Department yielded discussion from city aldermen about the police turnover rate last week.
Jacksonville city council members approved the first reading of the hiring, but not before talking about whether there’s too much turnover at the JPD.
Alderwoman Marcy Patterson claimed that there’s been a 20 percent turnover rate over the last 18 months for an officer staff of 40. Police Chief Tony Grootens disputes that number, indicating the department has actually lost four officers in that time frame.
Two of those were retirements, and the other two were lost to the Illinois State Police and to the police department in Austin, Texas. The hires approved last week are contingent upon the pending retirement of two current officers. Grootens says one may be headed for the Secretary of State Police, while the other is going to the Springfield Police Department.
“You’re always going to have turnover and like aldreman Cook says we train our officers to be the best, so other agencies are going to seek them out,” says Grootens.
“You are limited here because of the number of lieutenant, sergeant and detective positions I have. Not everybody wants to be a patrolman for the next 20 years. They all have aspirations.”
But Patterson says since 2011, at least 19 people have left the police department.
“It is important to me that people are leaving towards a better job as rather than a reason. That was a concern for me,” says Patterson.
Grootens disagrees that there’s a force driving people away.
“I’ve never ever heard that from anyone who left,” says Grootens.
Grootens suggests that the JPD might not lose as many officers if the base salary for an officer were to be raised, and he threw out a number of $10-thousand. But he says, state and federal agencies would still pay better.
“Can you blame someone from bettering their position and going to something that is going to improve their lifestyle for their family,” says Grootens.
Alderman Don Cook, who you heard Chief Grootens reference, was the police chief before him for nearly 15 years before retiring. Cook talked about having once lost six officers to the state police at once during his time as chief.