Down to 298 police officers–less 50 since a year ago due to retirements and defections to other departments–the city has opened a recruitment drive with the goal of hiring 70 newcomers within one year. Optimum police staffing is 426 members, according to Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia.
The looming question: can those hires keep pace with additional losses? Part of the issue centers on high healthcare premiums covered by police officers and national controversies blunting police work as a coveted profession.
These challenges will face the next chief of police that is expected to be hired in September following an ongoing national search.
Politics also enters into the fray with a mayoral election on the horizon in 2023.
If there’s a major spike in crime it’s easy to connect the problem to staffing shortages, real or imagined. It became a central issue of the 2015 mayoral cycle when Joe Ganim defeated incumbent Bill Finch in a Democratic primary.
Ganim managed reelection in 2019 defeating state Senator Marilyn Moore in a tight primary on his way to a general election win.
The police department has been a toothache for Ganim, some of it self-inflicted, following his top-cop appointment of Armando Perez who was later charged and subsequently did federal time for scheming to rig the chief testing process with former Personnel Director David Dunn.
Wooing Bridgeport residents is also a goal of the recruitment drive. City residents can receive an additional 15 percent added to their final passing score showing proof of residency for at least one year prior to June 21, 2022, according to the Police Department web site promoting the recruitment.