Apr 5, 2024 - News

Why NW Arkansas police departments are recruiting from other states

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Representatives from police agencies across the region are traveling to Texas and California to find new members.

Why it matters: NWA police departments have many openings, and the region's growing population is compounding a national trend of law enforcement agencies struggling to fill roles, police told Axios.

Background: A coordinated effort to recruit in Los Angeles and Fort Worth among the Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville police departments, as well as the Washington County sheriff's office, is aided by the Northwest Arkansas Council.

  • "We didn't want them to compete against each other," Rob Smith of the council told Axios.
  • The NWA Council hosts representatives from public safety entities at a quarterly meeting.

By the numbers: The Fayetteville Police Department has 156 officer positions, of which 23 are open, public information officer Stephen Mauk told Axios.

  • Ten of Springdale's 152 positions are unfilled, public information officer Matt Ray said.

What they're saying: Mauk said Fayetteville mostly needs more officers to respond to increased calls because of the city's growth, noting the city approved more school resource officer positions that are vacant. The department also has openings in patrol and investigations.

  • In addition to NWA being a desirable place to live, the community and Fayetteville's city government staunchly backs its police, Mauk said. The department has had success recruiting from other areas where police may not have as much support.
  • Ray also said population-driven calls are up in Springdale; meanwhile, some officers have recently retired and taken jobs in the private sector.

As NWA sees more people move in, out-of-state recruiting can better reflect the demographics of the area. People from other regions can bring diverse life and language skills, Ray said.

The other side: Bentonville's police staffing levels have stayed on the higher end. The department has three officer openings for its 104 positions, recruiters Kaya Kidd and Chris Gravley told Axios, noting the attractiveness of the area and the department's work environment.

  • Bentonville does not have a civil service commission like the region's other largest cities, meaning the department does all the vetting and hiring.

The big picture: Police departments in NWA have given pay bumps, with Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville and Rogers increasing minimum salaries from roughly $45,000 to $55,000 in the past few years. Police can also make more, based on education and other incentives.

  • But those raises aren't cutting it, Smith said.
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