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      Columbia police struggle to fill vacancies

      Right now, there are 12 vacancies and 3 new positions recently approved by the City Council.

      The Columbia Police Department is having trouble filling open positions in their department.

      Right now, there are 12 vacancies and 3 new positions recently approved by the City Council.

      Police officials said they have enough officers on the street to keep their city safe but more officers are needed to lighten the load.

      With 163 officers and a population of more than 113,000, Columbia Police administrators said they could use another 30 officers to keep up with their cityâ??s growth. Ellen Oppenlander has lived in the Columbia community for 25 years. Oppenlander feels safe in her neighborhood, but worries thereâ??s not enough officers in other parts of the city.

      Oppenlander said, â??I think the amount of shootings has gone up. The amount of crimes they are able to solve just isnâ??t happening.â??

      Columbia police tells KRCG 13 filling vacancies at the department has always been a problem. Itâ??s been worse lately because many officers are retiring at the same time. Another problem is that about a third of the applicants are not qualified. You need at least 60 hours of college credit, certifications and you need to pass several tests before you wear a badge. Administrators are thinking about lowering their requirements.

      Columbia Police Sgt. Joe Bernhard said, â??Weâ??re looking at replacing some of our college credit hours requirements with active duty military experience or with other law enforcement experience from other departments.â??

      The Columbia Police Department has officers in training to fill some of the vacancies. They hope to fill the other positions as soon as possible by stepping up their recruitment efforts.

      The annual starting salary of a Columbia police officer is $40,784.