Staff are in short-supply at the Sitka Police Department, and only a few have applied for a number of vacant positions. Right now, there are close to a dozen vacancies.
According to a report presented to the Sitka Assembly in late December, the department is recruiting openly for a handful of jailers, patrol officers and dispatcher posts. And the Animal Control Officer job has been open since mid-July with no applicants.
In an interview with KCAW, Police Chief Robert Baty said they started experiencing a new wave of turnover about 11 months ago – and he said the job vacancy issue isn’t unique to Sitka.
“I think it’s for pretty much all jobs in within Sitka, as well, as nationally, and even internationally. I’ve just recently attended a National Association of Chiefs of Police conference, and those were some main topics we were talking about…the retention and the lack of applicants that we all receive,” Baty said. “Definitely seeing that as a national issue,” he added. “But what that means for Sitka is [that] it’s taken longer to fill the positions that we have openings for.”
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Baty said the department has shifted responsibilities of some staff to compensate for the vacancies, and has assigned off-duty police officers to fill in as jailers and dispatchers.
“We’ve been able to provide full services to the community by having other personnel fill in whether it’s our MSO [multi-service officer], or officers providing dispatch services or jail services,” Baty said. “So it’s been pretty seamless for the public to not be impacted.”
Baty is optimistic that they’ll fill the vacancies– he said they’re working with a group of officers and the city’s Human Resources department to update their local advertising and recruitment efforts. The Sitka Assembly also approved an 8% pay bump for officers in October, with more to come in future years.
And that’s shown some success, though perhaps not as quickly as officials have hoped. They’re currently training a new dispatcher and have received a couple of applications for those positions. And after an eight-month search, the city hired an IT specialist for the department in November.