The Janesville police force will increase by two officers starting Wednesday, the first increase in 13 years.
One result should be shorter response times for non-emergencies when the officers start patrolling this spring.
Police Chief Dave Moore said two officers will be assigned to second shift, which starts at 3 p.m. It’s a busy shift, Moore said, but if it appears later that help is needed elsewhere, those officers’ hours could be changed.
Janesville police are “very good” at getting to emergencies, Moore said, but response times for things such as barking dogs, loud parties or abandoned vehicles tend to be slower.
“While those are not emergencies, it’s certainly important for those citizens when they call the police,” Moore said. “At times, people just need to wait.”
Moore said people often come to the lobby of the police department, expecting to see an officer right away, but they can wait up to two hours, depending on how busy officers are on that particular shift.
Sometimes, they are sent home to wait for an officer.
Janesville police have had 102 sworn officers since 2013. The new officers will bring that total to 104.
The department is hiring seven new officers in total. Five of those are replacing officers who retired or are leaving for other opportunities, Moore said.
One of the new officers must complete four months at the academy before field training.
Two of the new hires come from other police departments and one from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. Three more have finished the police academy.
Those six will be ready for patrol once they finish field training in May, Moore said.
Moore said the city is fortunate to hire experienced officers, in part because the city provides pay and benefits while recruits are in the academy.
The city council gave Moore funding for three new officers, but Moore said he plans to hire two officers and use the rest of the money to bolster his overtime budget.
“This allows us to put resources almost with pinpoint accuracy when and where we need them,” Moore said, citing the nine-day hunt for Joseph Jakubowski last April as one of those unexpected times when overtime funding helped the department focus on a high-demand incident.
Moore said if the extra money is not needed for overtime in 2018, he might hire a new officer next year or earlier.
Moore has been pushing for years for an increase, and it appears he will continue to do so.
“Even with the additional funding for police officers in 2018, JPD is still well behind the officer-per-citizen ratio as compared to our peer cities,” Moore said in an email.
“Just to get to average, we would need to hire 15 police officers,” Moore continued. “Additionally, our officers wish to provide—and our citizens have come to expect—a high level of police service. With our current staffing, it is difficult to provide a quick response to low-level calls for service, increased traffic enforcement, patrols on our bike trails or preventative community policing in our neighborhoods.”
Among the officers leaving, two wanted regular Monday-Friday day-shift hours, something Moore couldn’t offer.
Moore said he supports their decisions.
“If we are not a good fit, I respect they want to move on to something different,” Moore said.
The desire for regular hours as a reason to leave police work is unusual but appears to be a trend, Moore said.
“I talk to chiefs all over the nation, and they’re seeing the same thing.”
Another officer who is leaving and his family had concerns about officer safety, given homicides of officers around the country in recent years, Moore said.
As of Thursday, 128 officers had died in the line of duty in 2017, with 44 shot and killed, according to data released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, as reported in USA Today.
The number of deaths is down 10 percent from 2016, when 143 officers died on duty, 66 of those from gunfire.
The 2017 death toll was the second-lowest in five decades. The lowest was in 2013, which saw 116 deaths.