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Sparta Police Department Working To Address Low Number Of Officers

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Sparta Police Department Working To Address Low Number Of Officers

Sparta Police Chief Nick Dunn told Aldermen during a Thursday night work session the lack of officers and new certified applicants are hurting the department.

Dunn said the city’s low pay compared to nearby areas continues to impact the city. He said he also lacks the ability to give new applicants higher starting wages based on prior experience. Dunn said they have spent a month looking for a new officer and have only received four non-certified applications.

“It all boils down to money,” Dunn said. “These new guys? I know them all. I know a bunch of them. These county boys? They don’t care. They don’t care what kind of benefits we’ve got. They don’t care what kind of benefits the county has. Bottom dollar. What am I, what can I go and spend at the store?”

Dunn said he considered using volunteer or part-time officers to help with the issue, but admitted neither could serve as a long-term solution without larger changes. He also said that the police department deserves additional funding due to its relationship with the rest of the departments in the city.

“If the fire department has something crazy go on, they stage out,” Dunn said. “Who do they wait for to go in and clear that scene? The police. EMS is going into a hot scene. Who do they call to go in and make sure everything’s safe? The police. Sewer/Public Works is out and digging in the middle of a hole, who do they call to make sure they don’t get run over? The police. We’re tied to everything. Everything. And if something happens, who’s going to be there? The police.”

Dunn said part of the issue is the regulations around officer qualifications making it so that out-of-state applicants are very difficult to incorporate into the department. Dunn said it currently takes around a year for a non-certified applicant to get through the police academy wait list and then trained before they can be properly utilized.

“Nobody wants to be a cop anymore,” Dunn said.

City Administrator Tonya Tindle said raising property taxes would be the only way to increase funds for the police department.

“Instead of the $50,000 on a truck, you’re going to drive your truck another year or two, and I’ll take that $50,000 and hire me a police officer,” Mayor Jerry Lowery said. “And that’s where we got to get creative, because government is a giant monster that keeps eating and it continues to want more and more and more.”


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