Many NJ police departments are short on support staff
Towns and counties across New Jersey are having increasing difficulty hiring police officers, and also filling jobs held by the men and women who work in support positions for those police departments.
According to Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, dispatchers play an important role in assisting law enforcement officers keep the peace but “the problem is we have a recruiting crisis in police work right now and it spreads over to dispatch. There certainly seems to be a lot less people available for the workforce.”
He said dispatching can be a difficult job and pay increases may be needed.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for 911 police dispatchers in New Jersey is $18.30 an hour.
These folks are vital
Colligan said without support staff the police can’t do their job.
“We just would cease to exist without dispatch, without administration, without records, those jobs are incredibly important and again, the departments can’t run without them.”
He said many police departments across the Garden State, “even just a medium-sized agency have 2, 3, 4 just handling OPRA requests, and requests for video from the court system.”
He said public employees used to be able to rely on great benefits, but health insurance costs have gone up dramatically recently, which may be one more reason why there are mounting job vacancies.
Colligan said getting enough officers is also a major challenge.
Traditionally being a police officer or a corrections officer was a sought-after position, with hundreds of people applying for a single job, but that is no longer the case.
“Between the issues involving law enforcement and police officers getting disrespected, things like that, it’s just not an attractive draw for too many people anymore," he said.
Criminals as cops?
He said recruiting has become so difficult that some police departments are getting applications from people “that are wholly unqualified, they have criminal records, there’s a couple of occasions where they’ve had warrants (for their arrest) it’s just a crisis we’re going to have to get through like we get through everything else.”
Colligan added while there have been isolated instances of police misconduct the vast majority are hard-working and upstanding individuals.
“There’s officers responding right now as we speak to emergency calls throughout the state that you’re never going to hear about,” he said.