OGDEN, Utah — The Ogden Police Department is struggling to fill open positions, and they’re hoping some new incentives can attract more candidates.
“Roughly 50 percent of my department has less than five years in service,” said Chief Randy Watt, Ogden Police Department.
Watt served as an Ogden police officer and Utah National Guard member for almost 34 years.
“I was just enthusiastic and excited about it and wanted to serve," Watt said. "Loved wearing the uniform."
In his current role as police chief, he isn’t seeing the same enthusiasm for his profession.
“I'm worried. My number one concern has become retaining qualified personnel," Watt said.
Right now, Ogden PD has 140 officers. Since January of 2015, Watt said they’ve lost 61 officers. Of those, 16 of them now work for Salt Lake City Police. Watt said SLCPD offers one of the highest compensation and benefits packages, along with other perks such as education bonuses.
Unified and West Valley City police departments are also stepping up their game.
“When you're competing, you're talking about dollars. That's the struggle we're having,” Watt said.
Watt is looking at innovative ways to slow the bleeding.
Beginning in the next pay period, officers who work afternoon shifts will get a 2.5 percent bump in pay and officers who work graveyard shifts will receive a 5 percent pay increase.
Ogden police officers will also receive educational bonuses - $1,000 a year more if they have an associate’s degree, $2,000 more if they have a bachelor’s degree, and $3,000 more for a master’s degree.
As for the retirement benefits, Watt says it’s having a negative impact on recruiting.
“Utah is one of the poorest retirement systems for public safety that exists in this country," he said. "I think it's challenging for young people to look at this current environment.”