Six vacant patrol officer positions this summer at the Durango Police Department forced Chief Bob Brammer to get creative.
Instead of combing the country for certified candidates, the chief created two new positions – dubbed service technicians – to alleviate pressure on patrol operations.
Some 40 people applied for the two jobs, both of which have been filled, Brammer said. Just eight people applied for the six vacant patrol officer jobs, he said.
There’s a shortage of Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, certified people around the country. Certified officers are the ones with guns, batons and arresting authority; police service technicians are charged with supporting certified officers.
POST certification requires a minimum of 556 hours of training at one of 21 POST-approved community colleges and public agencies, and one private organization, in Colorado. A 59-page, state-certified curriculum mandates trainees drive police cruisers, fire guns, learn legal code and practice arrest tactics.
Brammer, a marine veteran who worked as a SWAT sniper and graduated from the FBI academy last year, called the certification process “demanding.” And although scholarship opportunities exist, the training isn’t cheap, he said.
Demanding hours, low pay and a diverse marketplace have also made the job of police officer less appealing to a budding generation, he said. National criticism of law enforcement, whether justified or not, may make people who are passionate about keeping their community safe consider options other than joining the force, Brammer said.
“POST-certified officers are a rare commodity,” he said.
That is why he created two positions for non-POST-certified members – employees who can help out with non-suspect-related activities, including found or lost property, nuisances or traffic control. Service technician duties may overlap with code and parking enforcement activities.
They’ll drive a Chevrolet Colorado, big enough to carry bikes or whatever else might not fit in a police cruiser. They’ll wear shirts with black on the bottom and blue on the top, colors separated by a reflective chevron.
Police service technicians’ primary objective is to “supplement and enhance police officer capabilities,” Brammer said. And since the Durango City Council gave authority to create the positions, DPD administrators have been drafting policy and training cadets.
“The potential to evolve is unlimited,” Brammer said. “... It (the police service technicians positions) should expedite response times.”