Auburn City Council

Auburn City Councilor members weigh in on city department budget presentations at a city council meeting Thursday. 

AUBURN — Still dealing with nine vacancies, recruitment remains a challenge for the Auburn Police Department. The department hopes to fill at least some of those positions by next spring, but Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said things are questionable right now. 

As he presented the police department's proposed 2019-20 budget at a city council meeting Thursday, Butler spoke about the agency's recruitment struggles as his roster remains sapped. 

The department is hoping to send two recruits from the most recent civil service exam list to a police academy. After those two names from the civil service list are dealt with, the list will become exhausted. The police department also has one lateral transfer prospect, meaning a candidate from an outside agency could be hired.

The next civil service exam is in September, Butler said, but it could be almost a year until interviewing could start for that batch of candidates. This brings up another possible dilemma: will a police academy be available then for new recruits? 

"We have to look realistically with how we're going to fill these positions," Butler said. 

The chief also mentioned some concern throughout the department over trimming positions. 

"We're not reducing our numbers," said Butler "As you know, we're budgeted for 67 (positions). I want 70. I know that's not what I'm budgeted for, but 67 is our bare minimum — that's what we need."

In February, the council unanimously voted to reduce APD's 10-step pay scale to an eight-step one, granting officers who make below the top-tier pay a wage increase. The idea was to bolster the department's recruiting efforts and offer candidates a more competitive pay. Thursday, Butler said that the agency could post billboards in Onondaga County to reiterate employment opportunities. 

Despite the staff shortage, the department received 4,000 more calls of service in 2018 than 2017 — "quite a big jump," according to Butler.  He added that domestic violence calls, incidents involving school resource officers and the number of traffic tickets issued were all down over the year. 

The police department is also requesting to establish a new part-time parking enforcement position. The current parking attendant, Butler said, has multiple responsibilities that take away from her writing tickets. If granted by the council, this position could create enforcement work over weekends. 

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Staff writer Dan Orzechowski can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or dan.orzechowski@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @OrzechowskiDan.