In addition, a non-patrol officer, investigator Dave Brown, is retiring this month.
The new hires are intended to offset those losses, along with the June return of Officer Chad Glick, who’s been deployed with the National Guard over the past year.
Police Chief Tim Feathers was given the OK from Powell Mayor Scott Mangold and City Administrator Zane Logan to hire two replacements despite a budget-conserving freeze where no new city positions are created and open positions are left open.
“They realized that we can only absorb so much and only for so long,” said Feathers.
If police patrol staffing sank any lower — now at 10 officers versus a full staff of 12 — Logan said it would reach a “critical level” where citizen and officer safety could be jeopardized. Overtime pay would also be expensive, he said.
“Anything less than that (current staff), I think, would not be good for the community,” Logan said.
The city is hiring officers now rather than later because of the long lag between an officer’s hiring and the time they’re ready to handle a regular shift.
“We just feel it’s in the best interest of the city to be proactive and ahead of this thing,” said Logan.
Feathers said choosing an officer takes about two months from the time the first advertisement for the job is placed, and then the new hire will need to go through 14 weeks of field training with the police department, plus 14 weeks in a basic training program at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy.
Until their training is complete and the officer takes over a shift, “it’s like the position’s vacant,” said Feathers.
The timeline can be trimmed by about 12 weeks if the hire is already a police officer; however, “our history has been, we’re usually hiring new people,” said Feathers.
Police began advertising for the two positions last month.
In addition to the 10 current patrol officers, the department also has the investigator position, a school resource officer, an officer assigned to a Division of Criminal Investigation task force and a community services officer.
The police department in total accounts for about a third of the city’s roughly 70 full-time employees. It has been the only department to have full-time staff affected by the freeze, though Logan said some part-time positions were dropped.
He said the city expects to hire more temporary employees this summer to handle projects such as landscaping at Homesteader Park and the Powell Aquatic Center.
In the past year, the aquatic center also was allowed to hire and replace employees for its first year of operations.
The hiring freeze, which began with the current budget last July, will continue this coming fiscal year.
Logan said with Powell growing in size, the city government should actually also be increasing to meet the increased demand and infrastructure.
“In reality, we shouldn’t be trying to maintain or be short,” Logan said.