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South Bend Police to focus on recruitment in 2018 budget

SOUTH BEND, Ind. –The South Bend Police Department is looking to add more eyes and feet on the ground around town to keep you safe.

Wednesday, police Chief Scott Ruszkowski told the city’s common council recruitment and surveillance will be top priorities in the department’s 2018 budget.

The force has seen a decline for a few years now.

The sworn count as of August 2017 is at 231 officers.

Last year it was at 250 and 255 the year before that.

Chief Ruszkowski says the ideal number for the force would be 245 officers.

“When someone decides to retires a week from now, that’s still a minimum of a year to get someone to replace that person,” said Chief Ruszkowski.

In a budget presentation to city council Wednesday he explained the department is seeing an officer shortage and nearly a dozen estimated resignations headed their way by 2018.

“We’d like to keep 245 across the board at least until 2020 then revisit again,” said Chief Ruszkowski.

The department is just shy of that number by 14 officers.

The department is leaning on three R’s to help solve this issue:

Recruiting, retaining and rewarding.

For the former, it will offer practice tests and study groups for the recruitment exam.

The department is looking to retain officers through 4 year contracts.

Finally, rewards will come in the form of shift incentives and career path development.

Until then, it’s also hoping adding camera monitors near streets; viaducts and parks could make up for the lack of eyes on the ground.

“I think it would be beneficial to at least have the opportunity to monitor so we can see what’s going on and if there are bad things happening we can see who’s doing those,” said Chief Ruszkowski.

In its budget is also breathing room for a utility experiencing growing pains.

The calls to add more staffers the St. Joseph County Call Center continue to grow.

And SBPD is prepared to fund it, dedicating 15 percent of its budget to it.

But council members want to hold the center accountable first.

“It’s so much part of our budget,” said Council woman Karen White. “Today we just heard from the police department and PSAP came up again. So we need to have that information and we need to have it quickly, so we can be good stewards.”

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