ORLANDO, Fla. — At the beginning of 2022, the staffing at the Orlando Police Department was so low that the agency had just one officer for every 361 residents.
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That critical shortage of officers impacted nearly every part of the department.
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While the numbers have started to improve this year, a core problem still remains.
The police department has been working to fill the vacant positions and is trying something new by asking corrections officers to move over from the jail.
Alexis Dilone was a corrections officer at the Orange County Jail for seven years before leaving to follow his dream of becoming a police officer. He says it was the best career decision he’s ever made.
“I am having the best time of my life right now,” Dilone said.
Now, the Orlando Police Department is starting a new crossover program meant to hire more people just like Dilone.
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It's a #NewYear, how about a #NewCareer? We recently welcomed 8 new officers to our agency, 5 of them received a $5,000 "new officer" bonus from the state.— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) January 5, 2023
2023 can be your year of an exciting opportunity to serve this great city.
Join us: https://t.co/zAYSmO2QlD pic.twitter.com/srL4pTcn1i
OPD currently has about 40 open positions, significantly less than a year ago.
Through the new program, corrections officers get the same police academy pay as any recruit, sponsored by OPD, and making $25.10 an hour. That’s seven dollars more than it used to be.
“That was one of the challenges we faced,” Orlando Police Sgt. Yong Hall said. “We have a lot of people in their career that said they couldn’t take that pay cut to make that transition. This pay increase has definitely increased our applicants.”
Corrections officers who qualify can skip the training they’ve already had, like firearms, defensive tactics, and first aid.
Hall says there are a number of unique qualities corrections officers can bring to the department.
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“By far, their ability to talk people down, to de-escalate situations,” Hall said. “They are dealing with a lot of people, a lot of angry people at their current job so they know how to talk to people, and that is one of the biggest and most important things. That is the difference between saving your life and someone else’s.”
While the program is helping OPD fill its ranks, it’s coming at a cost. The corrections department is also short-staffed with about 200 open positions at the jail.
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