Fairbanks faces police shortage, says pay is among reasons

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska The Golden Heart city is facing a shortage of police officers, which is raising concerns about the department's operations.

Fairbanks Police Department and Staff (via City of Fairbanks)

AP reports the Fairbanks Police Department has seven unfilled positions, a deficit expected to grow this spring and summer following scheduled retirements. The department says four of its 46 officers plan to retire in the coming months.

Officials say four of the expected 11 vacancies will remain unfunded through at least 2019 under the terms of a three-year contract approved in March.

We spoke with FPD Lieutenant Greg Foster last week and he says there is also the possibility of others leaving for other jobs this year. Foster says one of the main reasons retention is so low is the pay inequality compared to the rest of the state. And that if they want to keep a department these issues need to be addressed.

"We're having a difficult time hiring new people, we have lost personnel to other departments, this year we are going to lose four for retirement and we only have one right now in the academy," Foster said. "If we maintain that ratio we're not going to have a department left. So we really need to address the issues that prevent us from hiring good candidates that can get all the way through field training, background, the employment application process and we have to be able to maintain the current staff that we have."

One of the retirees this year is current police chief Eric Jewkes who will be retiring at the end of this month. The city is in the process of hiring a new chief and there is a community forum with the three finalists at the City Council Chambers this evening.

We will have details about the forum and a closer look at the candidates tomorrow.