ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
With a recent decline in the number of law enforcement officers in Marion County, the Hillsboro Police Department is looking for ways to attract qualified officers.
Because of the number of openings, attracting qualified officers is becoming a challenge.
?There is a lot of competition,? said Dan Kinning, Hillsboro Police chief. ?I do already have a couple of good applications, but I do think it will be difficult.?
Kinning is hoping to find someone familiar with the department and the town.
He is looking for someone already certified so the officer will not have to be sent to school for training.
Kinning is beginning by looking for someone already in the area.
?If we don?t find someone soon, we will start advertising,? he said.
In an attempt to make the position more appealing, Kinning is making a few changes in what the department offers.
One of the changes addresses the uniforms officers wear.
Last week, Kinning received permission from the city council to have the uniforms professionally cleaned with the hope that they will last three to four times longer. Currently, officers are required to clean their own and many wash them at home.
For $30 per officer each month, a dry cleaner in Marion will clean them.
In addition, the officers will have designated uniforms.
The council also approved paying for the leather goods for officers when they start. Replacements will be purchased by the officers.
The cost to purchase the items Kinning determines necessary, not including boots, would be $220 to $250 per officer. The money will be taken out of the reserve equipment fund.
Kinning is going to look into purchasing items from resigning officers and also from the sheriff at a reduced rate.
The Hillsboro police chief has other things on his list, too. Kinning would like for the city to issue the same handguns and bullets to all officers. This would enable officers to be familiar with all of the department?s handguns if they needed to use one in an emergency.
He also feels the department will need one to two more breath testers in the near future because it is difficult to keep handing them back and forth between officers.
Kinning is also interested in purchasing a camera for the department because officers take quite a few pictures which are needed for court. Now, many officers use instant or disposable cameras to take pictures.
To help pay for the items, Kinning was authorized by the council to apply for a matching-funds grant. The grant would provide $9,000 and the city would provide $1,000.
With the recent resignation of Randal Brazil, Kinning is concerned about the future of the D.A.R.E. program. He hopes to find an officer willing to continue as the D.A.R.E. officer. He said he does not want to lose the program.
Kinning hopes to have the first officer hired within a week of Brazil departure. His last day will be Feb. 24.
Kinning said it will be more difficult to fill the role of Office Byron McCarty because his retirement becomes effective in April.
In all, six officers in the county have resigned or retired, including the Marion County sheriff, a deputy, a Marion police officer and two Hillsboro officers, as well as the retirement of the police chief in Peabody.
?We?re losing them left and right,? Kinning said.
He said it was unusual for so many positions to open up at one time.
?Everything is just happening at once,? Kinning said.