Law enforcement agencies across the country continue to struggle with staffing, causing a shortage of available officers able to patrol the streets.
The South Jacksonville Police Department is beginning to change that locally as they are preparing to welcome some new officers to the department. South Jacksonville Chief of Police Eric Hansel says his department has had good luck with recruiting in recent weeks.
“We have four new patrolmen who have been hired, three full-time and one part-time. The three younger ones do not have any academy yet so one of them is signed up for the part-time academy, the other two are signed up and on a waiting list to go to the full-time academy.
All three of them are currently enrolled in a forty-hour mandatory firearms class which would afford them the ability to carry a firearm and start training with officers on the street to give them a little bit more experience for when they do get to go to the academy. They will also have a longer training program at our department to get them more experience before they are released on their own.”
Hansel says the 4th officer has three years of patrol experience, is also currently full-time certified, and will begin paroling the beat in the village on Monday, May 14th.
Hansel says the possibility of the state reaching Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan could be huge for his department when it comes to staffing. Currently, South Jacksonville PD is on waiting lists for their three new officers who are not certified to attend a police academy.
Due to restrictions, police academies are backlogged with applicants trying to fill classes that have smaller attendance allowances due to COVID mitigations. South Jacksonville is currently on the list for classes in July and January, but Hansel says he hopes a reopening of the state could allow for more candidates to get into a class faster.
Hansel says his department has also expanded in-house training for all personnel and is working with the Jacksonville Police Department to broaden training practices, including de-escalation techniques.
“When I left JPD I talked to Chief Mefford about doing a joint training program with the Jacksonville Police Department, which he was in agreement with. So all of our officers at South Jacksonville attend the exact same training requirements and classes that the Jacksonville Police officers get.
Being a subset of Jacksonville and working so closely together, we back Jacksonville up on calls, and they back us up on calls. So it’s really nice to have all of the officers trained in a technique or tactic so they know what they are doing when they get together and have to work on something. As far as de-escalation, we get the exact same training. We’re going through the same de-escalation techniques that the Jacksonville Police officers are going through.”
Hansel says there are a couple of other training classes he would like to have his officers attend, one of which being a crisis intervention class. He says however the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many classes to be canceled or have reduced class sizes.
He says the department’s current staffing shortage has made it difficult to take officers off the street for extra training, but he hopes the new hires will help share the workload and allow for more training to be provided going forward.
Hansel says he is looking forward to more public events starting back up so he and his officers can get back out in the community to interact with the public. He says he’s also looking forward to introducing the new officers to the community as well.