Oct. 07--The city of Yuma's turnover of public safety officers is well below that of the average rate, with many who leave doing so through retirement, said City Administrator Greg Wilkinson.
Only a handful have moved on to other agencies that have a higher pay scale, Wilkinson said in response to concerns raised by Councilman Edward Thomas in last week's council meeting that the city was losing a number of trained firefighters and police officers because of pay.
Over the last five years, the city lost 13 firefighters, Wilkinson reported. Of those, nine retired, two left public safety all together and one left but came back. There was only one transfer to another city "we think was because of pay," he said.
That's a total turnover rate of 2.4 percent, he noted, well below what is considered a healthy turnover rate of 5 percent.
"It's very rarely that we lose a firefighter to another agency," he said.
On the other hand, the city has hired 19 firefighters over the last five years, nine of them from other fire departments, Wilkinson said.
He also noted that during the city's last recruitment for firefighters, 360 people applied for six positions.
The Yuma Fire Department currently has 115 uniformed officers.
As for Yuma Police Department, a total of 72 officers left over the last five years for a variety of reasons, Wilkinson reported.
Four police officers transferred to other police agencies, he said. Two followed former YPD Chief Jerry Geier to Goodyear, one transferred to Flagstaff and one joined the Cocopah Police Department.
Another six officers left YPD to join federal agencies, such as Border Patrol and Immigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"We can't compete against the federal pay scale," Wilkinson observed.
Seventeen police officers retired during that time. The remainder of those who left YPD are people who dropped out of law enforcement, he said.
YPD currently has 171 sworn positions but 174 people, with authorization for an overstaffing of five positions, Wilkinson said. A total of 18 are either attending the academy or are in training.
That has YPD back to the staffing level it had before the downturn, when it was cut back to 157 positions in 2009 due to budget constraints, he said. "In the last four years we've been able to bring the staffing back to our prior level with the addition of 17 positions."
And YPD will receive a $1.2 million federal grant to bring an additional eight officers on board in the next two years, Wilkinson said. The funding is being provided through the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to advance community policing among law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Wilkinson said four new officers will be added in 2014 and four in 2015 through the COPS grant.
Copyright 2013 - The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.