UI police double travel spending

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MAY 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety more than doubled its spending on travel between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2010, according to statistics The Daily Iowan received through a public-records request.

The expenses are largely a result of officer turnover and changes in law enforcement that have caused the department to train officers involved in special programs out-of-state over the past four years, said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

"What's changed is that, when I first started [30 years ago], you saw men and women, their entire career, stay with one department, and a lot of people didn't have college degrees," Green said. "It's the exact reversal now; I would say every candidate we hire has a degree, and they want to start somewhere, but they also have other dreams."

Since fiscal 2006, Green said, the department has hired 32 police officers, 26 of whom needed to be trained at an academy in Johnston, Iowa, for 13 weeks, costing the department roughly $7,000 per officer.

In addition to the new hirings, Green said the department has added special programs, which require out-of-state training. This includes two bomb dogs and their handlers, a bomb technician, a fire-safety coordinator, Violent Incident Survival Training officers, and the Threat Assessment Team.

This combination has raised the department's travel spending from approximately $35,000 in fiscal 2006 to $75,000 in fiscal 2010.

Some peer institutions save money by providing training at an on-site academy — like at the University of Illinois, where travel costs were only roughly $18,000 for fiscal 2010.

At the UI, Green said the turnover was a result of retirement and officers going on to other agencies or careers — a problem Roswell, Ga., Police Chief Dwayne Orrick, who's written a book on recruitment, retention, and turnover of police officers, said is common among university police officers.

"Often, when you have great police officers, they become products for a lot of poaching," Orrick said. "Other people want to go in and target the really good officers and attract them into state and national and other local agencies that may have better benefits."

Green said he expects one of the department's officers to get picked up by a federal agency in the coming months.

Meanwhile, officials with the Iowa City police said they have seen a similar increase in travel expenses because of a retirement bubble. As does the UI, Iowa City police train off-site and send several officers out of state for specialized training.

But not all of the UI's peer institutions are struggling with retention.

Kelly Roudebush, an inspector for the Michigan State University police, credits the department's low turnover to hiring officers with whom officials are familiar.

Through their "green jacket" program — a student security force that assists with event patrolling — Roudebush said the department is able to build rapport with potential candidates prior to them joining the force, preventing turnover.

But Orrick said turnover is a problem many law-enforcement agencies can expect to persist as the economy rises.

"All employees are constantly weighing their current circumstances with other alternatives and as those become more available," Orrick said.

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