Tuscaloosa Police Department searching for new officers

The Tuscaloosa Police Department needs more officers in its ranks, and on Tuesday organization officials ensured the city is aware of it.

During the latest Tuscaloosa City Council meeting, Assistant Police Chief Steve Rice told the council that staffing has been a long-term problem and things might get worse before they get better.

Right now, TPD is operating with a 10% shortage of officers, meaning there are about 28 openings, and the department is doing everything it can to get qualified officers on the force. Employment offers start at $51,000 and opportunities for overtime abound.

“The mayor and the council increased our pay plan last year to hopefully attract some more qualified applicants,” Rice said. “On top of that we have a lateral pay program, so our real goal is to bring post qualified applicants already trained here so we don’t have to spend the time or money bringing them up to speed.”

Tuscaloosa’s proposed fiscal year 2023 general fund budget features TPD getting $2.5 million in additional funding.

“It’s vitally important,” Rice said. “When you are in a very competitive job market like this, I mean any out of the box thinking that could get somebody hired and in this seat behind you would be our goal.”

The additional funding, Rice said, would cover salaries, fuel cost increases and vehicle maintenance. It does not include the department’s $1.2 million request for new hires.

Rice said officers are leaving for all kinds of reasons, including retirement and personal matters, but often the reason is better benefits elsewhere.

“I think our agency is a difficult one to attract people to in the first place because there are a lot of agencies around us that have some better benefits than we do,” Rice said. “Luckily our pay is comparable. At the end of the day, I think it is a tough, competitive job market.”

Rice has this message to anyone out there interested in joining the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

“We are very progressive,” Rice said. “We have a great police chief. We have a great city council to provide us with what they need, and we are one department who is small, but we have a lot of opportunities for you. You want to be a helicopter pilot, on the lake as a boat guy, traffic guy, just about every type of dream you would like.”

No decisions were made at Tuesday’s council meeting.

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