Shortage of police officers leads to uncertain 2017


SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTHI) – The Sullivan City Police Department is facing major challenges with a shortage of officers.

Between some recent departures and other candidates not working out, officers are putting in overtime to keep you and your family safe.

In fact, the department is working with three full-time officers. The city is budgeted for six full-time officers.

They have a fourth officer, Robbie Smith, who is waiting to attend police academy in June.

“We’ve really been struggling through 2016,” said new Chief of Police, Michael Garrett. “We’ve kind of been trucking along, and with the Chief resigning, it put us shorthanded.”

This departure left the department with three officers bearing the task of 24/7 protection.

“We’re kind of used to it, being short-staffed, but this is really pushing it with three guys covering the roads,” said Garrett.

Chief Garrett contributes a major cause to this shortage is the dwindling interest to become a police officer.

With controversial reports such as police shootings or police brutality flooding the headlines, small towns like Sullivan see the effect.

“When I first started 13 years ago, we had 40, 50, 60 guys apply for one position,” said Garrett. “But the last few years, we’re lucky if we get 10 people to apply.”

What also isn’t helping the shortage is the lengthy hiring process. Candidates go through nearly a year of training and tests before they’re sworn in.

Chief Garrett hopes by the end of 2017, the Sullivan Police Department will be fully staffed once again.

The three officers will continue to work over 50 hours a week until that day comes.

“Obviously that’s not in our budget to plan for so much overtime over the years so that’s definitely a challenge we have to face,” said Garrett.

The Sullivan Sheriff’s Department has stepped in for back up to make sure safety is the priority for the streets of Sullivan.

Garrett says although safety isn’t compromised, additional services like outreach programs with schools or churches are affected. A lack in drug intervention is also a shortcoming of a police shortage.

“We still have veteran officers on every shift, they’re just putting in more hours,” said Garrett. “So I want people to know they’re putting in more time for us.”

The Sullivan Police Department is currently accepting applications. To find out more, you can reach the city department at (812) 268-4353. The police station is located on the corner of E Washington Street and Stewart Street in Sullivan, IN.