Law enforcement agencies get creative to retain, recruit new officers

Nov 17, 2021, 9:40 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2021, 11:26 am

The shortage of police and law enforcement officers isn’t unique to Utah but law enforcement agencies are getting creative in the state in their efforts to retain and attract quality individuals.

“Trying to compete with the wage war is tough,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

Sheriff Rosie Rivera says a smaller applicant pool has local police departments aggressively pursuing corrections officers and public safety deputies from her office.

“Of course they’re going to want to because they’re trained. They’re trained to handle difficult situations, they know how to communicate well and make excellent officers but we still need quality officers in the jail,” Rivera said.

In addition to modest raises, Rivera says they’ve spent the last few years getting creative in finding new recruits including pushing legislation that allows the sheriff’s office to hire 19-year-olds at the jail.

“We currently are the only jail doing that but speaking with other sheriff’s they are going to be seeking that out as well,” Rivera said adding that police departments can only hire candidates 21-years-old and older.

However, Rivera said considering all the perks other police departments, like Taylorsville and Salt Lake City, are offering, the competition is tough.

“Salt Lake City just announced, they are paying $2,500 to any officer that goes out and recruits someone else from outside their agency,” Rivera said. “We can’t compete with that.”

Additionally, the Salt Lake City Police Department also announced a major pay raise for officers in June.

Other police departments like North Salt Lake and Tooele have also increased pay for officers.

Last week Rivera told the Salt Lake County Council she started 2021 with a full staff of deputies positions but now she has 71 openings on the corrections side and about a dozen on the public safety side. Rivera said she started noticing deputies leaving for neighboring agencies in July, what she terms “the wage wars.”

“I just spoke at the academy yesterday, it was the first day. We only have 21 individuals in our academy, we average around 35 so that gives you an idea,” Rivera told the council on Nov. 9.

Rivera said they have a hard time attracting new candidates because many people consider police work a greater liability than the benefit of serving one’s community. She also cites low starting wages and the rising cost of living in the Salt Lake Valley.

“I go back to the days when I got into law enforcement and there would be one or two job openings and there would be 50-100 people applying for that opening. That’s not the case anymore,” said Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith.

However, Smith said those days are long gone. He too is struggling to retain and attract new deputies. “The last year didn’t help,” Smith said.

Smith said most of his deputies are leaving for higher-paying jobs in Salt Lake County.

“Especially some of the start-up agencies up there that have come up with the phenomenal numbers,” Smith said.

Smith said they don’t have more money allocated to his office. Instead, Smith is offering more vacation and sick time to experienced deputies transferring from other departments. Experienced deputies now start with 40 hours of sick time and 40 hours of vacation from day one.

“We are really good at doing more with less but there comes a point where it’s a pretty critical piece of our communities. You can only go for so long,” Smith said.

Rivera said they’re also looking to recruit candidates from minority and refugee communities who perhaps haven’t given thought to a law enforcement career.

“For right now, it’s just you’re fighting to compete and keep those folks and what we are doing is taking a look at where else can we pull from, where can we recruit from. We’re looking at diversity, refugees and women who are historically underrepresented,” Rivera said.

Rivera said she would also support a new bill at the legislature which seeks to allow officers to retire after 20 years of service instead of 25.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Settlement Canyon Reservoir under blue skies...

Larry D. Curtis

Police rescue unconscious girl from submerged car in Utah reservoir

Two police officers saved an adult and a child from a car completely submerged in a reservoir by shooting out a window and getting them to safety.

20 hours ago

(Benjamin Wadman)...

Josh Ellis

Severe thunderstorm drops quarter-sized hail, torrential rain across Salt Lake Valley

A severe thunderstorm brought quarter-sized hail, gusty winds and torrential rain to most of Salt Lake County Saturday afternoon.

20 hours ago

Photo of Nile Thacker, a tiny tim's toymaker killed in a crash earlier this year....

Lauren Steinbrecher

Toymaker killed by alleged DUI driver remembered as family waits for justice

Nile Thacker's family is sharing an important message as they remember Tiny Tim's biggest volunteer who was killed in a crash.

20 hours ago

The Salt Lake City Fire Department responded to an abandoned building that was on fire at 220 S. 20...

Logan Stefanich

Fire at abandoned building forces evacuation of apartments in Salt Lake

An fire in an abandoned apartment building forced the evacuation of an adjacent apartment building late Friday night.

20 hours ago

Utah County law enforcement is urging the public to stay away from Bridal Veil Falls during the hei...

Cimaron Neugebauer

‘Stay away’: Utah County officials urge caution around avalanche debris at Bridal Veil Falls

Utah County law enforcement is urging the public to stay away from Bridal Veil Falls, where avalanche debris hides a raging river.

2 days ago

Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands is hosting wildland firefighting training exer...

Alex Cabrero

Wildland firefighters prepare, train for upcoming wildfire season

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands is hosting wildland firefighting training exercises across the state.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Law enforcement agencies get creative to retain, recruit new officers