SBPD Considers Future Staffing Needs

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Thursday August 08, 2013

Have you ever been curious about the police facility on Gregory Drive and the details of the operation of the Department? On Monday, August 5, prior to the City Council meeting, five councilors and members of the public received a personal tour. The tour, led by Police Chief Trevor Whipple was an opportunity for individuals to ask questions about specific departments and gain insight into what the future needs of the Department might look like. Chief Whipple graciously assembled a number of his staff to give highlights on their particular areas of expertise, and intern Katelyn Howard prepared extensive documentation on workload analysis and assisted on the tour. 

After viewing the facility, locker rooms, gym, cruisers, and holding cells, as well as the vacant space directly above the building, Chief Whipple gave a presentation to the Council on the current status of the department. 

As Vermont’s second largest municipal police agency, the South Burlington Police Department is comprised of eight separate units that fall under three divisions, served by 50 employees. Whipple explained that their staffing level, which is the authorized and budgeted level, currently consists of 40 sworn police officers, six civilian dispatchers, two record clerks and two part time community justice center employees.  

With more than 18,000 incidents or calls for service per year, one of the primary challenges of the SBPD involves staffing. When a workload analysis was conducted recently, it was determined that 6 more patrol officers would be ideal. In 2010, the Department had two additional officers and a full time administrative assistant, but only five dispatchers. Those positions were eliminated due to budget constraints at the time. This is significant when one considers the fact that on average, 585 people are arrested per year and paper records are kept as backup. Although, there are now six dispatchers, adjustments have been made to cover the additional workload. The command staff officers have taken on additional administrative tasks and special unit officers have moved back to patrol to cover vacancies. These changes equate to less time for the staff to network in the community. Currently, the Department has three officers in training; once an officer is hired, it takes 8 months for him/her to be out on patrol due to training. Even if an officer is hired who is pre-certified, he/she still needs to undergo a mandatory 16 week training program.

Because the Department wants to make certain they can continue to provide a high level of service to the growing needs of the South Burlington community, it is planned that the FY15 budget request will include a vision for future staffing, especially due to impending retirements. Looking ahead, there are 6 individuals set to retire within the 5-6 year range. 

Chief Whipple explained that they have made every effort to be cost efficient. “We use statistics to drive what we do (evidence based policing) and try to prevent problems, which leads to fewer calls. We also made good strides at our contract negotiations and don’t see a lot of people leaving for other agencies. If you distill all of this information down,” Whipple said, “even with all of the woes, we provide a great level of service.”

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent