Ozark Emergency Response Personal Shortage

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The city of Ozark is having a hard time filling its openings at the police department. It has to do with how much officers are paid. Ozark police officers don't have the same pay and benefits as colleagues in surrounding cities.

That's causing Ozark to have an unusually high turnover within the police department. City leaders are hoping pay raise and better benefits will be the answer.

The pay a police officer gets may never seem to equal the risk the officer takes each day. The city of Ozark is behind neighboring cities when it comes to starting pay.

During a study earlier this year, Ozark police were started out at five percent lower than surrounding city officers. However, these lower rates are just one part of the problems facing the Ozark Police Department.

Ozark City Clerk Billy Blackwell said, "This is the profession that you don't find many people going into these days. The market and availability of people who would like to go into this profession is more limited than it was."

However, just because there are fewer officers on the payroll doesn't mean there are fewer officers on the streets.

“This has not affected us as far as being able to provide the service, but it is putting stress on the employees that we have because they are having to work more hours and different hours,” said Blackwell.

Ozark police are not only having the problem hiring new officers, but also retaining those officers after training.

"People who have been here a short period of time may leave looking for something else, but if we can make it attractive for them to stay then that's certainly one thing we'll be looking at," said Blackwell.

There are eight openings at the Ozark Police Department, which should have 30 officers on staff. Right now there are only 22.

City officials say the police department isn't the only department needing more manpower. The Ozark Fire Department is also understaffed. City leaders say they're working to increase pay and benefits for the police and fire departments.

The city clerk hopes to have the first steps to a solution in place by August.