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

Top Stories

Local News

Debbie Worthen

Family, friends remember Utah Tech freshman as ‘the life of the party’

Family and friends of a Utah Tech University student who fell from a fifth story balcony over the weekend remember the 18-year-old as “the life of the party.”
1 day ago
With only days to go before Christmas retailers are hoping consumers will shop generously. (Photo b...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Gephardt Busts Inflation: The tricks retailers will use to get us to open up our wallets

Of the thousands of Utahns who shopped for bargains on Black Friday, many likely bought a lot of stuff they really didn't plan to buy. And as KSL's Matt Gephardt explains, that's all by design.
1 day ago
KSL TV's Daniella Rivera (left) and Unified police detective Doug Lambert (right)....
Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox, KSL TV

The gift you shouldn’t give car burglars this holiday season

Holiday shoppers are darting around busy parking lots this time of year. So are thieves. Unified police told the KSL Investigators there's a new number one hot spot for car prowlers, but some simple steps can make sure they don't get the better of you.
1 day ago
(Jordan Education Foundation)...
Dan Rascon

Volunteers desperately needed to take kids in need Christmas shopping

A major Christmas giving event to help students in need in South Jordan is in “need” itself.
1 day ago
Lauren Steinbrecher

Hunter High shooter gets juvenile detention for killing 2 students; case now closed

The teen who shot and killed two Hunter High students and injured a third nearly a year ago was sentenced Monday to serve in juvenile detention until he’s 21.
1 day ago
Home security footage of the suspected driver crashing into a mailbox....
Shara Park

Syracuse residents search for driver who destroyed mailboxes overnight

Syracuse families are looking for answers after someone drove through their yards Monday morning, destroying property and mailboxes.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
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.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Law enforcement agencies get creative to retain, recruit new officers