The Howell City Council has approved a new method that should better help fill vacant positions within the police department.

The current hiring process for vacant positions is said to create a huge delay in the time it takes between the actual vacancy and having an officer prepared for patrol duties on their own. A memo notes that with the reduction of one full time position, a long term vacancy or two puts a huge stress on the police department and the individual officers that are left to make up the difference. It’s been a problem for the past 13 years and the department has been in a constant hiring mode - with only a short period of time when the department was actually staffed at authorized strength. At a recent meeting, Council unanimously approved what’s being referred to as a “bridge position” that allows for an early hiring process that essentially gives the department the ability to fill those gaps.

Interim City Manager Erv Suida tells WHMI it’s not an additional position to the department but more of a position that bridges the gap between the vacancy and having somebody back on the road. Suida says when they know a vacancy is upcoming, it gives the department the ability to hire and get somebody trained and ready to take over before that position becomes vacant. He says that process can take anywhere from six months to a year to get an officer on board, trained and ready for road patrol. Suida says if they wait until the position becomes vacant, then they’re waiting another year until they have the position available. He says the “bridge position” gives them the ability to think ahead and get someone trained before a retirement happens.

In forecasting future vacancies, based on eligible retirement dates, the police department has the potential to see up to four additional vacancies as the result retirement between the spring of 2020 and the fall of 2022. Two of those will occur back-to-back in the early months of 2021. In order to identify the best candidates, a memo states the department needs to advertise and actively recruit immediately. (JM)