The Detroit Police Department is one of the few cities in Michigan with its own police academy.
But some cadets — who graduate after going through the free training — then leave the Detroit Police Department for other jobs in the suburbs. Their departures leave the city with a shortage of officers both in quantity and in quality. In a Bridge Magazine article, reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey writes how the issue started and how some suburban departments are taking advantage of fresh graduating recruits.
Click here to read the Bridge article
Dawsey spoke to WDET’s Sandra Svoboda on the process of the academy, the legislation that could solve the problem and how it affects the people of Detroit.
Click on the audio player above to hear their conversation.
Here’s a transcript of it all:
Chastity Pratt Dawsey: Detroit is one of very few municipalities across the state that has its own police academy. If you want to be a police officer in Detroit, you go to Detroit Police Academy. The problem for years, for generations probably, the Detroit Police Academy has been a training ground for other municipalities. Meaning people come to the Detroit Police Academy, get trained and then in very short order leave the Detroit Police Department and go to other places. This sort of poaching has become a budgetary problem for Detroit and also it’s also become a problem with the police force in Detroit. Now you have almost half of the police force has less than five years’ experience and you have 19-20 percent of people being trained in the Detroit Police Academy leaving the Detroit police within two, three years.
Sandra Svoboda: You mentioned that it’s also a budgetary problem, can you expand on that?
CPD: The unions will say “Look, if you paid more then you wouldn’t have to worry about people leaving.” But, you have the City Council and the Police Commission saying “Look, we can’t afford it. We can only afford to pay $36,000 to a starting police officer.” When you train an officer, look it takes $18,000 to train an officer at the police academy. Essentially what happens is you go into the police academy, you get hired at the $36,000 starting police officer rate and it takes about six months to go through the academy, get certified, become an officer. Well after those six months if you see 20 percent of your recruits leaving, then that’s money that has been spent training people who now don’t even work for you.
SS: What are the solutions to this problem?
CPD: Rep. Sylvia Santana, who is out of Detroit, introduced a bill to say “Look, if you get trained in a police academy and you leave within five years you’re going to have to repay your training costs.” It’s caused a bit of hubbub. The unions, the police unions haven’t supported it. However the city council in Detroit is saying, “look, we can’t train people and have them leave.” There’s a question as to whether other representatives in the House or other legislators will get behind it because their municipalities are gaining when they’re able to recruit Detroit police officers. We’re going to be watching this one for the next few months.
SS: What’s the impact of all of this for residents of Detroit, businesses of Detroit, people who are in Detroit? How are they feeling it?
CPD: Detroit has, again, about 1,700 police officers. You have a lot of people who are retiring, leaving the force. That means again 800 officers have less than five years’ experience, and that’s an issue if you’re a citizen. You’re seeing people who are on the beat who are very inexperienced, who don’t have institutional knowledge, who don’t know the neighbors and neighborhoods, and it’s a concern as to whether these are community officers who know what they’re doing when half the force has less than five years experience.