Wausau police are working overtime to cover patrol

Statewide there are about 13,400 officers, a number that has dwindled in the last decade
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 4:26 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The state is experiencing the lowest level of law enforcement staffing this year compared to the last decade according to the Department of Justice. Wausau is no exception. Our staffing levels, even though on paper they look like they are good, we’re struggling,” said Chief Ben Bliven, Wausau Police Department.

Right now they are down three positions, but they also have one officer that’s on infield training, three more officers in the police academy, two on light duty due to injuries and a few more on family medical leave. That’s why they began interviewing candidates for open positions on Tuesday.

“When you add all those positions that are not actually counting towards our patrol staffing, we’re in pretty dire strains in terms of our ability to fill our shifts,” said Chief Bliven.

This means overtime, which can be forced.

“When you start filling in those off days with additional 12-hour shifts, if they’re working 7 days in a row on a 12-hour shift, that’s a lot,” said Chief Bliven.

Chief Bliven said their small but mighty team is making it work.

“Officers are stepping up, they are serving a lot of overtime,” said Chief Bliven.

The mental and physical toll is hard on officers, according to Chief Bliven.

Wausau isn’t the only city with the challenge. Wisconsin has less than 13,400 law enforcement officers now according to the state’s department of justice, the lowest since they started tracking in 2008.

“We have the fewest number of officers working in the state in over a decade,” said Jim Palmer, Wisconsin Professional Police Association Inc. “Talking with chiefs and sheriffs throughout the state, the single most common thing I hear from all of them is that agencies are having a very difficult time getting a significant number of applicants.”

Palmer said there are a few reasons why.

“Younger people today have a lot more options, that they can pursue in terms of a career that don’t require them to put their lives at risk, their health and safety at risk, and those jobs probably pay better as well,” said Palmer.

“There’s a lot of private sector jobs that officers can go and make a lot more money than they make as a police officer,” said Chief Bliven.

Even though staffing is a struggle, you don’t need to worry about emergency response being impacted, according to Chief Bliven.

“We definitely have officers that are here to serve the community that are here to take that calls for service,” said Chief Bliven.

While they complete interviews applications are closed but follow Wausau P.D. on Facebook to keep up with upcoming job and application postings.