TUPD faces recruitment, retention concerns amid national police shortage

The Department of Public Safety is working to recruit and retain more officers through new benefits and equipment.

Retention of TUPD officers has been a point of concern for Temple administration amidst a national hiring struggle. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Updated 10/04 at 6:40 p.m.

Although Temple University Police Department continues its efforts to hire and retain officers, the department is feeling the effects of citywide and national personnel shortages. 

Ten Temple Police officers have left the department since the beginning of the academic year. Two of the officers retired and eight continued their work with different police departments, according to social media posts from the Temple University Police Association. Five of those eight joined the Philadelphia Police Department.

The Department of Public Safety has revamped its recruitment strategy this academic year. They made their benefits comparable to PPD and followed 21CP Solutions’ recommendation for a written recruitment plan.

“We’re putting all of our resources towards [hiring and retaining],” Vice President for Public Safety Jennifer Griffin said. “We’ve hired additional people to focus on this. It’s not just going to be one thing either, it’s going to be a combination of things we want to make [the department] an appealing place for people to get a job and to stay here.”

TUPD hired four officers who started the week of Sept. 18. Six more hires are in the academy, with two set to graduate this December and four in May 2024. One is joining TUPD after working with PPD and another is from the Drexel Police, Griffin said.

Griffin believes the constant back-and-forth pull between local departments for the current officer pool is due to a decreasing number of applicants.

From 2020-22, 69 percent of law enforcement agencies nationwide saw a drop in the number of applications for full-time officer positions, 65 percent reported an increase in retirements and 66 percent had an increase in resignations, according to an August 2023 report from the Police Executive Research Forum.

“Departments are competing for existing officers, making one department’s solution another department’s problem,” wrote Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF, in the report.

TUPD has 72 police officers and 95 total sworn officers as of Sept. 23. There were 85 police officers on Sept. 14, 2022 and 74 police officers on Sept. 1, 2021. While the department is assessing what the ideal number of officers is, a “good” number would be around 15 to 20 officers per shift between all three campuses. Currently, the TUPD deploys eight to twelve officers per 12-hour shift on the main campus, Griffin said.

New TUPD officers now get a $2,000 signing bonus and current officers get a retention bonus of $2,700. A referral bonus of $500 also is available to all DPS employees.

There is also a lateral incentive plan for police officers looking to transition to TUPD. If an applicant has three years of continuous service at another agency, they can start with a salary reflecting that experience.

Starting salaries have increased, with officers making $70,000 in their first year, Griffin said. Officers’ salaries will now continue to increase for 10 years, while PPD’s yearly increase ends after five years. 

From Sept. 14 to Sept. 22, parents and community members saw TUPA make social media posts almost every day congratulating a different officer for their service and departure from the TUPD.

Fadia Halma, co-chair of the parent-led group Temple University Safety Advocates, said the number of campus police officers is a top concern of parents she’s interacted with, but that only explores one facet of public safety, Halma said.

“The headlines and misinformation out there drives more of the fear [in parents,]” Halma said. “They don’t understand that there could be many other things in play that are trying to make the campus safe. This is one area where I agree they need to work on to try to get more police officers, but they are also making that effort and they are making [other] advancements on campus for safety.”

TUPD has also upgraded its equipment and now has outer vest carriers that put less stress on officers’ backs, new tasers, handguns, more cars and Level II body armor, which protects against fire from most small handguns.

Officers announcing their resignation on social media, along with a lack of transparency about what Temple is doing for TUPD contributes to the public anxiety, Halma said.

“I think the only thing that will make parents feel better is that they see and hear of less crime,” Halma said. “They could come out and tell the public they gave them all new handguns and tasers, or new vehicles that are equipped with medical equipment but I don’t know if that would make a difference in the narrative that there still are not enough police officers.”

Updates about public safety and changes to TUPD are announced through Temple Now, which reported on new positions, equipment and retention efforts in June.

“I don’t have a concern about [the number of officers,]” Kailah Allmond, a sophomore public health major, said. “I think there’s a lot of surveillance, like when I see them driving around in their cars. It doesn’t really affect me because I feel like there’s more officers than not, still.”

Moving forward, DPS wants to find officers who are looking to engage with the community and create a work environment that encourages others to stay with the department.

“I’m bringing in a team and we’re building the foundation,” Griffin said. “We’re trying to support the people who are here and given years of their life. Some of the [TUPD] police officers have given 20, 30 years of their life here. They love this university. They love our community. They love our students. They are committed.”

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