The Town of Paonia is seeking a certified police officer after two officers left the Police Department within days of each other to work for other departments.
As of Nov. 30 the department is down to two and a half officers after officers Stewart Byrge accepted a position at Cedaredge and Taffine Patterson accepted a position at Dinosaur.
The town will accept applications until Dec. 29. The goal is to have someone hired by the end of January and trained in time for summer, said Police Chief Neil Ferguson. A full job description and list of responsibilities and application forms are available at townofpaonia.com.
Officer Patrick Hinyard remains on the force, and reserve officer Loren Winnett was hired to replace officer Patterson. Until they are fully staffed again, said Chief Ferguson, non-emergency calls may not be responded to immediately, if at all, based on the number of officers on duty at the time of the call and the nature of the call.
Losing police officers is a problem the town has had for a long time, said Mayor Charles Stewart. Because it's a small town and a small department, people see the job as an opportunity to gain experience before moving on to a higher paying job with a bigger department. "I think that's understandable," said Stewart.
In looking at current pay scales, "What we pay our officers really isn't that competitive" with surrounding communities, said Stewart. "It becomes difficult to get people to stay." The board, and the community, needs to consider whether it would be wise to allocate more money to the department, added Stewart.
The Town of Hotchkiss Marshal's Office is also seeking to add a fourth police officer to its staff. In his request to the town council for funding of another officer in the 2018 budget, Marshal Dan Miller cited the stress of trying to provide policing 24/7 with a three-man operation.