Amid multiple high-profile cases, LPD struggles with staffing

Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins
Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 9:31 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln has seen a recent stretch of notable crimes. From a deadly car crash to a fatal fight and others killed or hurt in shootings, all in the last few weeks.

Those investigations alone require heavy workloads for law enforcement and only some of them have resulted in arrests. They’re all coming at a time when the Lincoln Police Department is short-staffed.

Tuesday, Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins acknowledged those staffing issues. Saying even entire units, like the traffic enforcement division has been reassigned to patrol duties. Shifting priorities from traffic tickets to 911 response, she said the department is stretched thin.

It also comes at a time when the crimes many officers are dealing with, are taking a mental health toll.

“Coming from a very busy, violent city I will tell you that you don’t unsee it you manage it and that’s not what I wanted for my officers,” Ewins said.

Right now, LPD is looking to fill 40 open positions. Back in December, that number was 23. LPD also historically has one of the lowest staffing levels of any police agency in the country for a city of its size. When fully staffed that’s one officer for every 813 residents, down 40 officers right now it’s closer to one for every 920 residents. The national average is about a one to 400 ratio.

“It’s called hard work and that’s what they do, yes were down in numbers but people are really stepping up and doing what they need to do to get the job done because they know how important it is,” Ewins said.

10/11 Now has also complied recruit data from the past 10 years which shows class sizes varying widely from seven to the high 20s. Either way, it will likely take a few classes which are in the academy for about five months each before the staffing shortage is fixed.

“Were getting a lot of interest coming in, we’ve been doing a lot of work on social media to show who we are,” Ewins said You know it’s interesting because every time I go into the office where we have a board of people that are wanting to come in our department it’s impressive, I’m very happy it’s much better than when I first got here nine months ago.”

Ewins also said that this staffing issue is not exclusive to Lincoln. Neighboring departments like the Omaha Police Department have about 1,000 actual personnel that are sworn and non-sworn. They are also serving a much larger area, with a ratio of roughly one officer per 550 people. In December of 2021, it did graduate its biggest class ever of 60 new officers.

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