West Allis struggles to fill police officer vacancies

Posted at 9:43 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 23:57:20-04

WEST ALLIS  -- The starting salary for a West Allis police officer is roughly $50,000 per year. That salary can rise quickly to about $75,000 annually.

At a glance, that might seem like pretty good compensation, but the money has done little to attract new recruits.

"This is our second recruitment for the year," said Deputy Chief Chris Botsch as he sat behind his large desk at the department headquarters. "We had a recruitment earlier this year and unfortunately we were unable to get the numbers we were looking for, so we are starting the process over again in hopes of getting more viable candidates."

The clock is ticking. The department needs four officers right now to fill its ranks to the required 132 sworn personnel. What's more, Botsch expects retirements and departures to further thin the department's ranks by the end of the year. Against that backdrop, the pipeline of new recruits has all but dried up. Botsch allows that the notion of becoming a cop may have lost some of its luster.

"People who come into this profession know that they are doing so at great personal risk," he said resignedly. "And, I think that there are people looking at the current climate and saying perhaps the risk has gotten too great."

West Allis is doing all it can to make it easier to become a cop. Recruits were once required to have a college degree. That's now down to sixty college credits along with graduation from the police academy. Recruits, though have to pay for their own enrollment in the academy.

"We are still having trouble," Botsch said. "I don't think we are alone in West Allis or Milwaukee County."

Waukesha County Technical College runs a police recruit academy. There, Dean Brian Dorrow says the school has seen no fall off in the number of students entering the academy. Dorrow says changes in enrollment are often linked to changes in the economy.

See the requirements to become a West Allis police officer here.