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City committee approves hiring part-time police officers in Jamestown

If approved by the Jamestown City Council, the Jamestown Police Department will look to hire four part-time licensed police officers at a rate of $35 per hour.

Jamestown Police Car 05132022
A Jamestown police officer is seen driving down 2nd Avenue Northeast in Jamestown on May 13. The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee unanimously approved without recommendation on Tuesday, Nov. 22, allowing the Jamestown Police Department to hire part-time licensed police officers.
Masaki Ova / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee unanimously approved without recommendation allowing the Jamestown Police Department to hire part-time licensed police officers.

If approved by the Jamestown City Council, the Jamestown Police Department will look to hire four part-time licensed police officers at a rate of $35 per hour, which is the same rate as the department’s off-duty security rate. Scott Edinger, chief of police, said on Tuesday, Nov. 22, that the part-time police officers would receive no regular benefits.

He said the part-time officers will need to work a certain number of hours and do training.

“In North Dakota, a part-time police officer is treated no differently than a full-time police officer,” he said. “So they would have to have the exact same qualifications as our regular police officers do.”

In a letter to the City Council, Edinger wrote the department is proposing that the part-time police officers work a minimum of 16 hours per month with a maximum of 32 hours per week.

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Scott Edinger
Scott Edinger, Jamestown Police Chief

He said additional costs include equipment for the part-time police officers, who would be required to wear the Jamestown Police Department uniform.

Additional costs are purchasing equipment including four more body cameras, two tasers and four ballistic vests, he wrote.

“We believe that the reduction in time-and-a-half hours that these four officers could provide would offset any additional equipment costs,” he said at the meeting.

Edinger said hiring four part-time police officers will help limit the number of overtime hours for the current officers. He said the Jamestown Police Department has averaged 431 hours of overtime per month from January to September. The department tallied 691 hours of overtime over 28 days in September and October and another 727 hours of overtime over 28 days in October and November spread out over 20 officers.

MORE STORIES RELATED TO JAMESTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT PERSONNEL SHORTAGE:
Jamestown Police Department, Stutsman County Sheriff's Office and Stutsman County State's Attorney's Office all have openings for positions.

Over the last few months, one officer was deployed, an officer or two was on family and medical leave and one is doing extended training with the K-9 unit, Edinger said. Since June, he said the department has had three openings; one has been filled but the officer currently is in training in the Law Enforcement Training Academy.

“Routinely, we have officers that are doing 200 hours plus a month. That’s a lot of burnout,” he said. “We are hoping that by implementing this we can either not increase or even reduce cost and give us some flexibility and relief.”

Edinger said a couple of officers who left the community and went on to other jobs expressed an interest in working part time for the department.

“We have currently five officers or former officers with a total of 79 years of experience that are interested in these four spots already,” he said. “These are also hours when they are hardest to fill because they are wanting nights and weekends because they have their own full-time jobs. They just want their foot back in the area of this type of work.”

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With the department being short of officers, he said it’s an “incredible amount of stress” on those on staff.

“We are removing that time off from an officer’s schedule and having them constantly work,” he said. “These hours are not adding officers to the street. This is simply maintaining the three-officer minimum that we have.”

City Councilman Dan Buchanan said law enforcement agencies across the country are having trouble recruiting and retaining officers.

“This is not a suddenly unique problem or our management or our payscale,” he said. “This is really a nationwide problem.”

Edinger said the competition is “fierce” for applicants because of the trouble recruiting and retaining officers. He said the department has had a minimal number of applicants – some with experience and some without.

“But there’s been issues with trying to hire those applicants,” he said. “Not to insult anybody, but we are looking at the quality of applicants and people we can actually hire. We haven’t had anything.”

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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