Duluth Police Union Calls Lack Of Qualified Officer Candidates A ‘Crisis’

DULUTH, Minn. – Duluth’s police union is calling the struggle to hire qualified officers a “crisis” for the police department and the city.

In a post on Local 807’s Facebook page, the union said they recently were not able to fill all open police officer positions because there weren’t enough qualified candidates interested in working for the Duluth Police Department.

The police department’s spokesperson could not confirm Sunday how many applicants applied for open jobs and how many jobs are currently unfilled.

The union says it’s a “crisis” because of an increased amount of retirements and decreased interest in policing as a career.

Part of the union’s statement reads:

“Statewide, other similarly sized cities and departments have offered competitive pay and benefits to ensure they continue to attract the best candidates to fill their staffing needs. Duluth has not.”

The Duluth Police Union calls this a public safety issue and says the city of Duluth must act to make Duluth a destination police department that attracts the very best.

The union and Mayor Emily Larson’s office are currently negotiating a new contract, which has officer pay at the top of the list of concerns.

For a look at the union’s latest letter to the city council about the concerns, see below or click here.

Greetings councilors, we appreciate the meetings we’ve had with you thus far.  At some of our meetings, we were asked about specifically what we were looking for or wanted. We’ve advised you all that we can’t and aren’t negotiating with you for wages.  What we are asking you is that you provide the resources necessary for our police department to have an adequate budget to address the multitude of things that our profession, and this community are encountering. We are going to provide you with a State Statute requirement with relation to pay equity.

One of the hallmarks of that statute as you will read is that compensation for positions bear reasonable relationship to one another and are comparable. We believe we have shown you that this currently isn’t the case for our city, and it’s causing significant recruiting and retention issues.  This isn’t the time as we’ve stated before, to have problems recruiting and retaining the best officers.  We are asking that you allocate the resources necessary for the city to comply with the statute.  We can’t give you a number.  We’ve shared with you wage comparisons as well as the Office of Legislative Auditor report to inform your discussions.

We have also provided you the data that shows the significant disparity in training budgets between the Duluth Police Department and other comparable cities. We do not have a sufficient budget to maintain current training standards let alone any new one’s the community requires from us. We also believe that the pay equity statute could be used in the same manor for training budgets.

We have had further conversations with Chief Tusken who remains in support of this effort. Chief Tusken also agrees that our department budget is inadequate and we continue to be over budget each year because of the lack of an appropriate budget. The city is not providing the Police department the adequate budget to train, address rising crime, specifically violent crime, recruitment and retention, as well as needed expansion. Chief Tusken stated that he would welcome any conversations from you all in relation to this matter.

We believe we have provided you with the necessary information to show the despair we are in, and the dire need to act now to increase the Department budget. We believe at a minimum we should be at or above the average budget for comparable cities to ours. We trust that you will do all you can in this area to reallocate the necessary funding to keep us and our community safe. This should be a top priority for the city and we know you are making it so.

We understand that these are difficult decisions, and don’t take lightly the work that you and we are trying to accomplish together.  We fully believe that the future of your police department will likely be decided this year.  We appreciate you all sitting down with us, and look forward to further conversations in the future.

Duluth Police Local #807                                                        L.E.L.S. Local #363

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