ENID, Okla. — For the last several years, Enid Police Department has been operating with a lower number of police officers.
Enid City Charter allows for 100 police officers in the department: one police chief, five captains, six lieutenants, 14 sergeants and 74 patrolmen.
The department currently has 76 total police officers, leaving it 24% understaffed, EPD Lt. Casey Von Schriltz said.
EPD has had a shortage of staff for at least six years, but Von Schriltz said officers still are able to sufficiently serve the community.
“As it stands right now, we’re … able to adequately provide law enforcement services to the citizens of Enid, but it really takes a toll on our officers,” Von Schriltz said. “They’re getting stressed, burned out and sometimes working callback shifts and things like that cover some of that staffing that we need.”
Shortages in law enforcement agencies like this are being seen across the nation, and Von Schriltz said some of the reasons why can include the social climate surrounding law enforcement, lower pay than other entry-level jobs, lack of good-quality applicants and the “ unknowns” that come with being a police officer.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office is fully staffed at 24 deputies, seven dispatchers, two administrative assistants, a lieutenant, the undersheriff and Sheriff Cory Rink, who is elected.
But Rink said GCSO is “shorthanded” despite the full staff, as deputies cover more than 1,000 square miles and serve a population of 61,000,
“We are fortunate that we do have as many deputies as we have,” he said. “It’s tough when we’ve got crimes coming in, and … it takes money to train the representative to investigate these crimes.”
Recruiting efforts and hiring processes
EPD’s recruiting efforts include putting openings on social media, going to job fairs, giving out business cards with information about benefits and how to apply on it. Those interested can apply by visiting www.enid.org/epdcareers.
Von Schriltz said the number of applicants has dropped over the years. Each application cycle lasts about four or five months, during which usually 60 people apply.
Non-certified applicants have to participate in a certified physical agility test, and then, both and non-certified applicants have to fill out a background questionnaire, submit to a polygraph examination.
Background investigation on applicants will be conducted, then the city of Enid Police Civil Service Commission decides who will participate in the written test and oral interviews.
If applicants pass everything, they’re usually extended a conditional job offer, then must participate in a pension physical, a psychological evaluation and another written test.
A majority of applicants, Von Schriltz said, will be eliminated before the background checks and polygraph examinations, and only about a handful are eventually hired onto the force.
“It’s a pretty lengthy process,” he said. “We want to hire the candidates that are going to best match the high standards that the community has set in the charter and with the police department’s mission statement.”
Rink said the GCSO has a thorough application process, as well, including background checks, mental health assessment checks and fingerprinting.
“It takes time,” he said.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or a GED and be at least 21 years old, he said, and GCSO accepts applications all year long — currently accepting applications for reserve deputies.
Rink said the full staff and retention at the sheriff’s office contributes to high morale and a “family-like” setting.
“Things like that go a long way,” he said. “If you have high morale, you’re going to have good people out there — boots on the pavement. They’re out there working hard for the public. … It’s a good feeling that I’m at full staff.”
Von Schriltz said enhancing communication between ranked officers and field staff and administrators and supervisors within the police department is important in retaining staff members.
“We’ve tried to open up those channels of communication and give them an avenue that they can voice their concerns or issues or whatever they’ve got going on that needs to be addressed,” he said.
He said everybody at EPD is “doing their part” as the department waits out the staffing storm.
“We’re doing our best and what we can, trying to get back to staffing levels so that we can really do the community justice and … some of the more proactive stuff and some of the more specialized things that we like to be able to do,” Von Schriltz said.