Florida law enforcement agencies work creatively to battle shortages in the state

'Retention is just as important as recruiting, because we don’t want to lose people to other agencies,' Chief Richard Del Toro says
Posted at 6:05 PM, Sep 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 18:30:08-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The state of Florida’s billboard campaign in Chicago prompted WPTV to take a closer look at Florida and officer staffing and the new hiring moves locally. Local law enforcement told WPTV for some departments, the shortage is real and can impact your safety.

In Port St. Lucie, Chief Richard Del Toro said they must meet the demands of a growing population.

“We just launched a new recruiting and retention initiative. Retention is just as important as recruiting, because we don’t want to lose people to other agencies,” he said. “That we are trying to do is make sure we are keeping up with that growth and next year the city council has approved 26 additional new positions.”

Port St. Lucie Chief Richard Del Toro Sept 2023
Port St. Lucie Police Chief Richard Del Toro explains the importance of retaining police officers.

Del Toro said they’re also now allowing take home cars to five counties. He told WPTV it was previously limited to within 10 miles of the station.

In West Palm Beach, the police department said they believe a pay increase and a sponsor program will help fill 17 positions.

”There is a ramp up time and process involved, it’s not like you can just hire people off the street,” Mike Jachles, the public information officer for West Palm police, said. “This is for people that are interested in law enforcement that are not certified. We will pay for them to go through the training, go through the academy, and then they come on the job.”

Mike Jachles PIO Sept 2023.jpg
West Palm Beach Police spokesman Mike Jachles explains the department's initiative to fill positions.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told WPTV they don’t have a critical shortage on their 2,500 person force, but continuing recruiting.

In Martin County, Martin County Sheriff's Office said they’re down 29 overall, that includes 12 deputing with corrections. It’s a number that Sheriff William D. Snyder said has a huge impact.

“We are a manpower intensive industry, everything we do is through the hands and feet of our deputies," he said. "So, when they are not here, because there is a position vacancy, we have to work short and that’s not safe for the community, and it’s not safe for my deputies.”

Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder Sept 15 2023
Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder shares how a lack of deputies impacts the department as a whole.

Snyder believes anticipated salary increases, a new billboard campaign in Palm Beach County, and possibly beyond, will help.

“We traveled to Jacksonville, NC to Camp Lejeune. We did a recruiting event up there and had a great turnout with the number of applicants,” said Deputy Justin Seigler, a recruiter with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

He went on to say that some applicants from police academies don’t go through.

“Making it through the polygraph exam, or the psychological exam, or even just the background investigation itself,” Seigler said.

 Martin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Justin Seigler recruiter Sept 2023
Martin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Justin Seigler explains the recruiting process.

John Kazanjian, the president of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said the issue is critical.

“These cities and towns need to wake up,” he said. “When I joined 37 years ago, man the line was out the door. There was a thousand applicants for maybe one job. Now, you are lucky to get 20 or 30.”

John Kazanjian the president of the Florida Police Benevolent Association
Florida Police Benevolent Association president John Kazanjian explains how times have changed there needs to be a focus on housing and salaries to retain officers.

A Police Executive Research Forum survey reported agencies are losing officers quicker than they can get new ones. Kazanjian said there needs to be a focus on housing and salaries.

“We are getting a lot from like New York, Chicago, California,” he said. “But it’s not enough. It’s not enough to sustain retirements and the people that have left.”