The Astoria Police Department is looking for three new officers for its staff of 16.
One officer resigned, while two more accepted positions with the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office just a month later in late March and early April. The department had previously hired an officer earlier this year, which filled a two-year vacancy.
The recent departures likely will lead to detectives taking on patrol shifts, having only two officers working a given shift, fewer community outreach events and an increase in overtime pay, Police Chief Brad Johnston said. Johnston and Deputy Chief Eric Halverson may also need to respond to calls.
The strains are already revealing themselves. One detective, for instance, will take some patrol shifts next week while also spending time preparing to testify in the trial of accused kidnapper and rapist Russell Wayne Deviney.
“It’s going to be a very difficult time for our department,” Johnston said.
While officers being hired at different agencies is fairly common, an exodus of this kind is pretty rare, Johnston said. Wages, jurisdiction sizes and specialization opportunities all can contribute to an officer’s decision to apply elsewhere.
“Each entity has its own personality,” Johnston said. “In police hiring, there’s not a lot of certainty until it’s close to the hire date.”
Though the department has been aware of the departures for weeks, it posted the job openings just last week. The delay allowed the department to offer more competitive wages after a recent collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Astoria Public Safety Association.
Once a prospective officer passes background checks and psychological evaluations, he or she must complete one year of training at the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. While the Astoria Police Department plans to begin interviews toward the end of next month, any new hires will not be patrolling city streets any time soon.
“I will be amazed if we have two people filled in 11 months,” Johnston said.