CHAMPAIGN – Police departments across the U.S., including in Champaign County, are facing staffing shortages.
The Champaign police department is using financial incentives to try to fill 20 officer openings.
Within the last few months, it filled several vacancies after offering a $20,000 signing bonus.
“Recruiting is getting harder,” Joe Lamberson, the Champaign police department’s spokesperson, said. “A lot of places are getting more competitive. Everyone is having to adapt…we’re having to do kind of private sector recruiting.”
He attributed the officer vacancies to national trends and said the labor market is competitive across the board.
Two weeks ago, the Champaign police started working with a Chicago-based security firm called AGB Investigative Services. It employs unarmed guards to monitor downtown Champaign at particular times.
Lamberson hopes it will help alleviate staffing and safety issues.
He said the contract with AGB is worth just over $200,000 dollars.
“We decided to use a private contractor to serve as eyes and ears in downtown [and] address some quality of life issues,” Lamberson notes. “Simple things – folks who are sitting in their cars playing music too loud, maybe someone who carried a drink out of a bar area.”
The Champaign police department is also working with the city’s Neighborhood Ambassadors, who will “assist residents, share information, and serve as an alternative first contact to address non-emergency community wellness and safety needs.”
The Urbana Police Department has six officer vacancies.
According to Lamberson, over the past six months, gun violence in the city of Champaign is down by nearly half from the same time period last year. He hopes that trend will continue as more officers are brought on.
“Our officers are taking the resources we have and working with our community partners…and we are doing everything we can to address gun violence from a policing perspective [and] from a holistic perspective,” he said.
Harrison Malkin is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow him @HarrisonMalkin