COLORADO SPRINGS — Almost three quarters of our law enforcement agencies in Colorado report they're operating short staffed. So what does that look like for the Colorado Springs Police Department and its plans for the future? News5 takes a deep dive into the information straight from the police chief's office.
Last year dozens of officers parted ways with the Colorado Springs Police Department for various reasons. Now, the department faces the challenge of maintaining the officers it has, while also recruiting a new batch to help address the increasing needs of a growing city.
News5 sat down with CSPD Police Chief Vince Niski to talk to him about these current challenges and his vision for the future.
"I've been here for 32-plus years. I've seen ups and downs in how people view law enforcement. I've seen ups and downs in different things that impact law enforcement. This will change. I'm very, very confident of that," said Chief Niski.
In 2020 the chief says 73 officers left the department, CSPD data sent to News5 shows that included 34 retirements.
So far in 2021, there have been 18 retirements and four officers who previously left that are now asking to return to the department.
"So, that's retirements, resignations, maybe some people left in lieu of termination. Just different reasons for leaving," said Chief Niski. "Some I think quite honestly have left because of the social unrest and feelings toward police departments and law enforcement."
So where does that leave CSPD with sworn personnel? News5 learned for 2021 the department is authorized to have 786 officers. Today the department is at 703, but that number is really at 679 because the total includes 24 recruits that don't graduate from the academy until the end of the month.
When it comes to civilian employees, CSPD reports it's authorized for 309 employees and currently sits at 293.
"So that sounds a lot better, but a lot of those people are still in training," said Chief Niski.
Chief Niski says here are his goals for the future...
By end of 2022 he hopes the department can come close to its authorized strength of 803 officers.
"Once we hit 803 that number is not going to sustain us. It's just not. With the internal growth inside current Colorado Springs. You see all the growth downtown. You see all the growth along Powers, North Academy Boulevard, all over," said Chief Niski.
With that kind of growth, the chief says in the next five years the department will need a new substation in the northeast area of Colorado Springs, which would mean having somewhere around 955 officers in the next 5 to 10 years.
"What I don't want to do is build a building that I can't staff. We really need to get the staffing in place first and then build the building and staff it appropriately so that we can have that continuity of operations across the city," said Chief Niski.
The chief says if someone has an interest in a career in law enforcement now is the time.
CSPD is prepared to hire more than 200 officers by the end of next year. However, the number of applicants is down. For the April academy alone, normally the department has about 1,000 applicants. Right now, News5 is told there's about 680.
Applications for the April 2022 CSPD Police Academy class can be submitted through July 16th. For more details and information visit: https://coloradosprings.gov/police-department/page/police-employment-0