On the evening of March 17, the Springfield Police Department will be graduating 18 new police recruits to join a force that has been plagued with vacancies in recent years, which has been a top concern for City Council candidates amid a wider discussion of crime and public safety in Springfield.
“I am pleased to welcome 18 new officers to the Springfield Police Department,” SPD Chief Paul Williams said in a statement to the Daily Citizen. “When these officers complete their field training in early July, adding 18 officers to patrol allows us to fill vacancies in other units, which benefits both the community and the department.”
With these 18 new officers, which consist of 15 men and 3 women, SPD has 319 sworn officers, and 49 sworn vacancies. Since they were paid employees, the 18 new officers have been a part of the 319 figure since joining the 76th Police Academy, but their graduation and eventual transition from field training to solo duty in the Uniform Operations Bureau will bolster the number of patrol officers, and allow veteran officers to be transferred to other assignments.
SPD vacancies peaked at 60 in December 2021, according to SPD Public Affairs Officer Cris Swaters. The last time SPD was fully staffed was in January 2019. Williams aims to return to normal staffing levels by the end of 2024.
The vacancies at SPD have been a major talking point for Springfield City Council candidates, eight of which are vying for contested seats in the April 4 municipal elections. Despite these shortages, SPD’s annual report, which became available on March 6, detailed a decrease in violent crimes and property crimes in 2022. However, gun violence continued to trend upward.
Williams said that, as of now, they have 18 new recruits that have been confirmed for the next academy, which is set to begin in June, and encouraged anyone interested to apply, as the application window is still open.
“There are two recruit academies scheduled for 2024 as we make slow but steady progress to reach our goal of returning to normal staffing levels by the end of 2024,” Williams said.