(The Center Square) – The Iowa Department of Public Safety will lose half its workforce over the next ten years.
Iowa Department of Public Safety Office of the Commissioner Strategic Communications Bureau Chief Debbie McClung said in an emailed statement that the loss is due to retirements of personnel of the Iowa State Patrol and the investigative division, which stem from extensive hiring the department experienced about 30 years ago.
The hiring boom followed the start of casino gaming in the state, she said. There were two academies each year, and each had about 40 recruits. Many other retirees are leaving after longer service.
In fiscal year 2021, 27 peace officers retired, and the department anticipates an estimated 18 retirements in fiscal year 2022. An additional 24 members will be eligible to retire before the end of fiscal year 2022. These officers don’t yet have 32 years of service and haven’t begun the retirement planning process, according to a document the department provided.
“It’s difficult to measure the loss of officers who have devoted their entire careers to the Department – many of them having served 32 years or more, but we certainly feel it,” she said. “Anytime you lose long-time service members, you must rebuild the vision and performance of valuable seasoned leaders, team members and mentors. The intangible losses include institutional knowledge, core values, camaraderie and the momentum those dedicated staff have helped to create.”
The retirement will not alleviate all increases in salary costs so the department will not have leftover money, she said.
“Employees who replace a retiree are typically not paid at the same rate as the employee who is retiring; however, the Iowa Department of Public Safety does not have excess money when evaluating all payroll costs across our Department,” she said. “Although there are typically savings as a result of retirements, the Department also has increases in salary costs due to across-the-board increases, merit increases, and other increases negotiated through collective bargaining.”
To address the recruiting challenge, the department plans to conduct at least one Basic Training Academy annually and attract existing certified officers in Iowa and bordering states who may be seeking a law enforcement career growth or agency change who would attend a Prior Certified Academy.
The department “must” apply research and hiring strategies from both the law enforcement sector and other industries and recruit people at earlier stages in their careers, she said.
“Our recruitment efforts continue to focus on adapting to the changing views held by younger generations on the value of dedication, leadership and justice, and evolving notions of job satisfaction that drive their career decisions,” McClung said. “Attitudes toward law enforcement have changed and applicant pools across the country are shrinking.”
The department has increased its social media and “other digital” tactics and attended more in-person and virtual recruiting events in colleges and communities to find candidates.
She said they’re also focused on recruiting more women and are participating in the 30X30 Initiative, a national coalition of police leaders, researchers and professional organizations advancing women in policing agencies.
“Currently, women make up only 12 percent of sworn officers and 3% of police leadership in the U.S.,” she said. “Female officers currently make up seven percent of our DPS sworn workforce, however we are making strides in developing programming that has been attracting more women to our application process. Ultimately, we share the national goal to increase the representation of women in our recruiting classes to 30 percent by 2030.”
If their hiring challenges continue long term, the department “will adjust [their] support model to accommodate.”
“As an assistive agency, we are continuously adapting our sworn teams to ensure we’re supporting local law enforcement agencies and providing the best service possible to Iowans. … This is something we are accustomed to doing on a daily basis as we staff to cover vacations, Academy participation and special enforcement initiatives across our various divisions,” she said.
Other states, including Georgia, are also experiencing law enforcement staffing challenges.