Manning the force: Green Bay Police Dept. faces challenges

Green Bay Police Officer Kyle Schroeder sits in a squad car during the department's Mini Academy.
Green Bay Police Officer Kyle Schroeder sits in a squad car during the department's Mini Academy.

GREEN BAY - When you call police, you expect an officer to quickly respond.

But keeping up with problems in the city isn't always easy for Green Bay police.

The department hired three new officers in January.

We caught up with the rookies during a rigorous four week Mini Academy.

Chief Tom Molitor says the new recruits help swell the ranks. But admits manning the department isn't an easy job.

"You have to be aware how, when someone retires, that you have a system in place so that somebody is brought on as soon as possible after that retirement," said Molitor.

The chief says that usually takes about 2 1/2 months. And this year there are even more hires to make after city leaders approved the addition of six officers. Right now, vacancies remain.

The department is considered fully staffed at 192. Even with the new recruits, it still falls five short of that total. We asked if the shortage compromises the department's ability to protect and serve.

"It could mean that there's a delay in responding to some of the minor calls. So there's impact that way, but I really don't believe the public would notice that much of a difference. As long as we have a base of officers," Molitor explained.

Building on that base involves a lot of manpower and money. Molitor says a new officer costs about $80,000-$100,000 in the first year.

"So you hire somebody and that date that you hire them, you're paying their wages, and all the wages of the people who are training them, and it takes four to five months before you feel the effects of that officer on the road," said Molitor.

Add that to the time it takes to figure out who's fit for the force. After applying and taking an initial exam, it can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for a potential hire to go through all the tests and checks the department requires before receiving a job offer.

Lt. Chad Ramos says the turnaround time takes longer if a candidate doesn't meet the department's stiff standards and high expectations.

"Candidate number one may not have been the perfect person, we may have tried them out, maybe we found something in their background, maybe through interviews they didn't make it, okay. So we start to keep working down the list of individuals that we have," said Ramos.

"All of the instructors at the college told us that it was going to be a long process, and we were prepared for it somewhat, however I didn't think it was going to take an entire year," said new officer Ryan Bolwerk.

The new hires say it is a stressful time. Psychological exams, physical tests, and extensive background checks are just part of the hiring process.

"There was 350 some odd applicants, and I applied in February, and I got hired in January the following year, so it's definitely a waiting process," said new officer Kyle Schroeder.

And once officers like Schroeder are sworn in, not only do they go through the month long Mini Academy, they also spend their first 16 to 20 weeks on the job with a trainer.

Looking at the overall timeline, I asked if the department's hiring approach is considered efficient.

"It is being run as efficiently as we can. Anytime you're going to hire someone in law enforcement, you're going to take your time in evaluating that person, so while some might want an immediate hire if you will, we're going to do our due diligence," Ramos said.

The chief expects to fill out the ranks by April. He says he tries to have as close to the maximum staffing numbers heading into summer, the busiest season. But, for this department, it's not just about the numbers.

"Well trained, efficient, skillful people can do a lot of things as well, so just having sheer numbers doesn't always make things easier if you will, it's making sure that the numbers that you have are well trained and prepared to do the job," said Ramos.