COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Police Department has added several new officers but is looking to fill 21 additional vacancies as it continues to combat a staffing shortage.
Toni Messina, a spokesperson with the Columbia Police Department, said the department recruited 15 officers during the past few months, with nine new recruits hitting the streets in the next few days. She said the department is seeking applicants with a "sincere interest in keeping Columbia safe and taking care of the community."
When fully staffed, the department holds 187 budgeted officer positions.
Messina said the department is recruiting for sworn and professional support staff positions. Recruiters are sent to law-enforcement academies, military bases and career events in Missouri and bordering states.
"We encourage folks to look at our department, the city's compensation package and at the advantages of living in Columbia," Messina said.
Among similar-sized cities, Columbia received the most calls for service per first responder in 2020 and 2021 -- according to Clear Point Strategy -- averaging close to 1,000 calls per first responder. Roughly double the national average.
Columbia has a population of 126,853, according to the US Census Bureau. Fully staffed, Columbia would have roughly one officer per 678 people.
"Our mission is to keep the community safe. CPD is doing its best to respond as quickly as possible to reports of violent and in-progress incidents," Messina said.
She said the staffing shortage has put stress on the department and has caused the department to prioritize certain calls over others.
"We appreciate our staff who are working overtime and helping cover shifts, and we ask for residents' patience," Messina said.
The Columbia Police Department will host an open house event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at its Regional Training Center at 5001 Meyer Industrial Drive.
Part of the event will be focused on the department's ongoing recruitment. The event will also provide an opportunity for the community to learn more about the department's operations.