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'It is disappointing:' 43 Warner Robins Police Department jobs remain unfilled

Meanwhile, the city is still trying to fill four other key positions.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Staffing shortages continue to plague police departments across the nation.

In Warner Robins, more than 40 police department jobs remain unfilled.

"We need help right here in our own community," Fullwood said.

Angela Fullwood is talking about the Warner Robins Police Department.

"They don't have enough coverage, enough help to patrol the area," Fullwood said.

According to the city, numbers from last pay period show 43 unfilled positions at the Warner Robins Police Department.

37 of those are unfilled, full-time positions.

"On the council side, it is disappointing to see we still have that amount that are not filled, with retirements, some people leaving to go to other law enforcement agencies, and other's just getting out of it in general. Of course, the big problem is that when you hire on a new police officers, you are looking at about 8-months of training, just to get them post certified and out on the force," Lashley said.

Council member Kevin Lashley says they're working on recruiting more officers.

This month, the city started a part-time officer program.

The program invites retired police officers to help work part-time.

"To fill gaps that we need, I think the number we were looking at was about 18 officers. These would either be freshly retired or currently employed with other police departments. They would be placed out on the street, doing patrol. I think part of the things we were looking to do was accident response, different things like that, where our full-time police officers are consuming the majority of their day having to handle accidents, when they need to be out more proactively policing areas. So, I am excited about that program and hoping that we see some real traction with that, but again, that's not the end all be all," Lashley said.

Lashley says he wants to start more outreach programs.

"Morale wise, whole communities don't respect them or appreciate the job that they are doing; and that can be changed by more outreach programs, which our police department does a wonderful job, but I'd like to see more of," Lashley said.

Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick was unavailable for an interview Thursday, but she provided a statement:

"Public safety departments across the nation are struggling with workforce recruitment and retention. The City of Warner Robins is no exception. This year, as part of my efforts to support our police department, we included $4,000.00 recruitment and retention bonuses in our annual budget. This was in addition to a 10-percent raise across the board for city employees. We will continue our efforts to recruit and retain the very best for our police department. I am committed to supporting our law enforcement officers and providing them with the resources necessary to adequately protect our community."

"The overwhelming program is just finding the recruits to come in. There's been a lot of stigmas placed on police officers over the last couple of years, some of it may be just and some of it is definitely not just, but it puts the people who are wanting to be in law enforcement in a difficult position if they are not feeling appreciated by the job that they are doing by the communities. What's the draw when you can make similar amounts of money in a much safer career path?," Lashley said.

When reporter Molly Jett asked Angela if the city is doing enough to recruit more officers, she said, she wants to see more job fairs.

"I can't say whether they are doing enough, maybe they are. Some people think they're not," Fullwood said.

Lashley said, he has heard of some morale problems, "here and there" within the police department itself.

But, he said he believes those come from the challenges of the job itself and not management or leadership.

Fullwood says she lives near Houston Medical Center and almost every day she sees ambulance drivers struggle to get through traffic on Watson Boulevard, because drivers don't pull over. 

She also says people consistently speed through her neighborhood.

Fullwood hopes in time staffing at the police department gets better, so more officers can patrol the area.

Staffing concerns don't stop at the police department.

The city is also working to fill the following positions:

They need a city administrator, a finance director, an assistant finance director, and a chief of police.

On Monday, Mayor LaRhonda Patrick told 13WMAZ the city will have an interim police chief by October 2nd. 

That's the end of next week.

October 2nd is Chief John Wagner's last day at the department.

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