Nine years ago, Springfield Township Police Department had more job candidates than it could handle, with 10 making the shortlist for a vacant position. This year, just seven have applied for the current vacancy.
Police Chief Michael McDonald acknowledged the township’s starting salary ($63,000) wasn’t as high as other county departments but said in an e-mail that recruitment and retention were issues common to all.
The chief also cited anti-police sentiment, which reached a crescendo following the death of George Floyd and other incidents, and continues to be stoked on social media sites, with some of those traffic stops picked up by mainstream media.
“With the negative publicity law enforcement is receiving, the increase in risk, so-to-speak, of just going out and doing the best job we can and the very real risk of being sued professionally, personally, or even charged criminally, is now more than ever a real possibility,” he said. “There aren’t too many careers where you are tasked with responding to high risk, intense, highly emotional, and extremely dynamic calls for help and ultimately a split-second decision can land you in hot water. It is definitely a different world and certainly a different atmosphere in law enforcement now.”
“With that said, I applaud all of the applicants willing to step into this field, despite what they may hear or even face. We are just trying to put the best person we can in a Springfield PD uniform to then go out and serve our residents with the same high level of service our current officers offer.”
At the Jan 23 meeting, McDonald sought a recommendation from the board whether to start the interview process for those seven candidates or re-advertise, thus widening the applicant pool.
The consensus of the board was to establish a hiring process now, informing current candidates of the procedures.
“We are willing to consider your recommendation, if you think sooner is better. All we want is to be kept informed,” remarked Supervisor Chairman Bill Ryker. “If you have someone with a set of skills that no one else has, someone who has that fit, then sure.”
“We don’t want to lose that opportunity,” added Supervisor Jim Hopkins.
Also at the meeting, Supervisor Dave Long recommended the addition of a part-time administrative assistant.
“We need someone who is willing to write grants and maintain the township website,” Long said. “Right now, when I look at the website, there’s nothing there. It’s a mess.”
Long also criticized the $270,000 allotted for the township building addition. Board members defended the cost, noting it was ARPA funded and could be used for physical renovations.
Newest Supervisor Lorna Yearwood inquired about the resumption of virtual meetings, which were abruptly canceled last September to the dismay of many residents. At a November meeting, Supervisor Pete Kade indicated they would resume but did not provide any starting date.
Chairman Ryker said the level of public participation would have to be taken into account. The previous board said the attendance of four to eight people did not justify the cost of up to $150 per meeting. There have, however, been recent public meetings on contentious zoning issues, which have been attended by 80 or more residents.
In public comment, Steve Doncevic criticized the required minimum lot size of three acres in the agricultural district, saying it was deterring young people from settling in the township.
“The only people who can afford three acres and a house is not the working class,” he said.