EVERETT — In continuing our podcast series on public safety, Lynnwood Times journalist Bo Brusco deep dives with Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman to discuss staffing shortages, how resignations and retirements lead to losing years of valuable experience, and the importance of mental health in the law enforcement profession.
Dwindling applicant pools, early retirement and separation, and changing attitudes towards law enforcement are all contributing factors to the Everett Police Department’s (EPD) staffing shortage, according to Chief Templeman. As of June 2022, the EPD has 19 vacant commissioned positions, and that’s after having hired 20 new officers this year.
“What I can tell you is that in the almost 30 years that I’ve been doing this job now,” says Chief Templeman, “I have not seen a greater challenge when it comes to people interested in becoming police officers and officers leaving the department.”
Some of the shortage’s impacts, as noted by the chief, include slower emergency response times, a loss of field experience, and the majority of units being understaffed. Speaking to the latter, EPD’s Acting Public Informant Officer Kerby Duncan says, “our Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET) is fully staffed with four officers. However, many of our specialty units are operating with several vacancies, and COET is one of the few exceptions.”
Officer Duncan also shared that the department has 88 patrol officers whose specific duty is to respond to 911 calls—that’s 88 officers for a city of 110,800 people, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
As the shortage has led to slower 911 response times, Chief Templeman emphatically states, “What’s most important is that the community understands that we’re out here doing the best we can. That the community gives us a little bit of space, a little bit of patience, understanding that we may not be able to respond as quickly as we have in the past but that their calls are still important to us, and we’re still out here 24/7 answering their calls.”
Having already hired eight more officers this year compared to 2021, Chief Templeman is optimistic that a positive impact will be felt as the new hires complete their training and are out on patrol come winter. “We’re really hopeful that by the end of the year, we’re going to actually start to see an impact from the hiring that we’ve done so far.”