The Caledonia Police Department may be in for a bumpy ride over the next few years because of being understaffed and having so many new hires warned Caledonia Police Chief Toby Schey.
Schey, who announced his retirement last month, had his last day on the job on Dec. 3. He highlighted a number of successes and shortcomings of the department at the village board meeting on Monday night.
Schey pointed to higher call volumes, higher intensity calls, high turnover and low staffing levels. But he also explained how he achieved all but two of the goals he set for his department, including having a succession plan and beefing up training for the department. Reductions in staffing, and losing dispatchers to a county-wide joint dispatch system in 2011 resulted in the department staff level dropping from 42 to 31. The department also lost seven sworn police officers in 2015, which they replaced. In 2016. The department will hire three more staff members next year due to retirement and a resignation, and the board approved hiring two more officers.
But the new hires don’t have the same level of experience as the staff they are replacing.
“It normally takes a police officer two years to gain enough training and experience to handle most calls for service without significant supervision,” Schey said. “The department will more than likely have inexperienced officers mentoring and supervising inexperienced officers. This is not an ideal situation in law enforcement where the liability is very high for mistakes made by police officers.”
But Schey doesn’t believe the situation could have been avoided since the department was understaffed “for far too long,” he said.
Calls for service have increased and are more involved as the department is seeing more calls involving domestic violence, mental health, drug activity, trouble with kids, and animal complaints. To address these issues, the department created a domestic violence intervention team in 2013.
“The purpose of that program is to thoroughly investigate domestic violence calls that we get for the same residents that call with the same problems, and get assistance to the victims and their children who may be affected by the family violence,…” Schey said. “Our goal is to get to the root of the problem so that we can solve as many as we can so that we don’t have repeated problems.”
The department has also received advanced crisis intervention training to officers to help with drug-related and mental illness-related calls.
But while a number of these actions have helped, Schey also told the board the department needs:
- Four more officers to handle the current calls for service
- A new evidence processing area and storage locker
- Support positions
- A citizen academy
- A police explorer program
- Accreditation through the Wisconsin Law Enforcement accreditation group
After the presentation, board members thanked Schey for his service and leadership.
“Your dedication and leadership have brought this department to a level that I’ve never seen since I’ve been on this board and I’ve been on here for 13 years,” said Kevin Wanggaard, village trustee. “I appreciate everything you’ve done and everything your staff has done.”