Lexington police feeling the effects of understaffing

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – A national trend of police shortages is being felt here in Kentucky.

A Police Executive Research Forum survey from June showed a 45% increase in retirements and a 20% increase in resignations. It also found that new police hiring dropped 5% overall.

Here in Lexington, the police force is staffed to 84%.

“Crime across the city is on a steady increase and there’s less and less that we can do about it because we’ve had fewer and fewer officers working the streets,” said Jeremy Russell, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge 4.

Now, according to Russell, there are not enough people applying for the job.

“A lot of people don’t want to be in a position where they’re scrutinized on a daily basis,” Russell said. “Every call we go to we’re yelled at, screamed at, given names.”

Russell’s calling on support from the community.

“If you don’t have support in what you’re doing when you’re trying to give back to the community and make the community safe, you don’t have support, and you don’t want to do your job. that’s the bottom line,” Russell said.

Lexington Chief of Police Lawrence Weathers says they’re losing officers more quickly than they can replace them. He says they’re currently enough officers on patrol.

“But, you know, realistically, if we still have people leaving that’s going to become a problem, but we’ll adjust to it like we always have in the past,” Chief Weathers said.

Chief Weathers says Lexington is authorized to have 639 officers. The FOP says there are about 540 current officers and about 35 recruits. With up to 34 weeks of training, Chief Weathers says the new class of officers won’t be on the streets until the new year.

Still, he says the department cannot and will not let quality suffer, just to get people in the door.

“We’re still going to maintain that quality because we do train people to work in this city,” Chief Weathers said.

The Department of Public Safety is hosting a job fair. The fair hopes to recruit for open positions including police officers, firefighters, correction officers, and 911 dispatchers.

It’s Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 3 – 6 p.m. at the Police Training Academy located at Bluegrass Community & Technical College Newtown campus, 500 Newtown Pike.

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