OLATHE, Kan. — Police departments across the country are struggling to find officers.
In Johnson County, Kan., it’s compounded by the region’s explosive growth.
Some estimates peg the population of Olathe to top 300,000 in the next 20 years. Finding officers to protect all those people is not easy.
There are a lot of reasons Olathe’s exploded as a family friendly suburb.
Sarah Allen raised her kids in Olathe and now comes from neighboring Shawnee to visit her grandkids.
“I love the community itself. There’s so many activities and parks,” Allen said.
With over 70 active neighborhood watches, there’s still a strong sense of people looking out for each other.
“Safety, especially with the kids, having young kids in the community, is tantamount,” Allen said.
A big piece in keeping the community safe is its police force, and that’s a job that’s growing harder all the time to recruit for.
“We had a recent testing where we only had about 12 people come in and take the test. Fifteen years ago when I was hired, there were five positions and 200 people applied for it,” Olathe Police Sgt. Logan Bonney said.
The Olathe Police Department has got two extra challenges, a lot of officers are hitting retirement age and the city’s growing a ton.
“We`d obviously love to have more people helping solve our crimes and prevent crimes and work with our community,” Bonney said.
Last year Olathe hired 34 new officers but that only back filled positions emptied by retirements, promotions and openings from those who left.
Next year at least six new positions will be added. Giving the department even more incentive to try all sorts of ways to attract new officers.
“As we get stretched thin, the fear is that we aren`t able to put in as much time and effort into the call,” Bonney said. “So recruiting and manpower is super important for us.”
Olathe recently beefed up its incentives to experienced officers coming in from other departments.
Transfer candidates can be eligible to start at near the top of the officer pay scale.
Efforts valued by residents here who want the Sterling Title of being among the country’s safest cities to stick.
That big 300,000 residents by 2040 is something Olathe is planning for now.
There are already new police positions budgeted in the next two years which will be on top of the current 183 sworn officers.