South Bend Police Department on track to be fully staffed by summer

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Police departments across the country are struggling to hire officers and have had to step up their recruitment efforts in recent years to keep the public safe.

However, officers from the South Bend Police Department are happy to report that they aim to be fully staffed by the summer! An uptick in recruitment they saw in 2022 puts them on track to return to pre-Covid headcounts soon.

“The advantage of being fully occupied is that you are not as burdened as a single officer,” says Mayor Müller.

Full staffing has not been possible since July 2019, which was the all-time high for staffing in the past 10 years.

“We’ve worked hard to rebuild, and that number stands at 231,” Chief Dan Skibins says of the number of officers on staff. “Unless 10 to 12 people suddenly retire between February and March, we will be back at or above the 243 we had in the summer of 2019.”

It comes months after the department’s lowest staffing numbers of just 209 officers last summer. In addition to Covid and other national incidents driving up the resignation rate of police officers across the country, the SBPD has seen officers resign over the past two years, partly because of the added stress that understaffing brings.

“We know we had to leave detectives in the last two years before they turned 20. Is that based on the case count they received? Because we had to downsize our detective agency?” asks Chief Skibins.

“I’ve seen the physical and psychological toll these officers are dealing with, they take these cases personally, each and every one of them,” said Police Commissioner Scott Ruszkowski.

Part of the recruiting success comes from the department’s Prospect Days and the opportunity to host its own on-site police academy.

“We have discussed with this board that we have 15-20% fewer officers and while we are hiring as fast as they go we simply cannot rebuild, we cannot deploy full staff our patrol is shifting to answering,” says Chief Dan Skibins. “For these reasons, they allowed us to host our own academy.”

Police officials say while they hire younger officers with less experience who go to the academy, between ramping up training and hiring double the number of career changers who come with experience, it doesn’t concern them that the South Bend Police Department is “younger “ will’ department.

“Are we afraid of becoming a less experienced department as we rejuvenate? So we really ramped up our training for 2023 and 2022 because we hired so many young officers,” explains Chief Skibins. “We hire officers with experience from other departments, they need less training to get them on the road.”

The next SBPD Prospect Day for prospective officers will be on February 18thwhere recruits have an expedited hiring and onboarding process.

For more information: South Bend Police Department Winter Prospect Day

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