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Fewer officers straining police force

(11/1) While the Thurmont Police are maintaining their presence on the town’s streets, their officers are effectively down to two-thirds of what they should be with no relief in sight until next year.

“The vacancies and openings have taxed the current staff, but Chief (Greg) Eyler believes the temporary short staffing issue can be solved,” said Police Commissioner Chairman Tom Iaccarino.

Until recently, the police force had one officer out on medical leave, two on light duty and two vacancies. One of the officers on light duty has come back to regular duty, which leaves the eight officers to cover duties budgeted for 12 officers.

“We’ve increased the overtime to cover the shifts and we’re juggling shifts to cover things,” Eyler said.

He also said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has offered to help fill in any holes in the scheduling with sheriff’s deputies, but the situation hasn’t become that bad for the Thurmont Police yet.

“I am hoping that we can get fully staffed next year,” Eyler said.

During a recent submission period for potential applicants for the police officer openings, Thurmont Police received 18 applications. Only seven showed up for the actual testing, of which, one person started in the current police academy run by the Frederick Police. However, the academy lasts six months so it will be mid-April 2008 before the newest officer will be seen patrolling Thurmont.

Eyler said the problem he is seeing with applicants is that they aren’t passing the background checks.

“They fail the polygraph or they have drug usage they forget to tell us about,” Eyler said.

Eyler said the police force is seeking people with integrity, who are dependable, who want to be police officers and who know how to deal with the public.

Iaccarino said the Police Commission is also doing its part to help attract and retain police officers for the town. Last year, the commission recommending the town commissioners approved a new salary structure for the officers and a new police station next to the Thurmont Senior Center.

“When you improve the salaries and give good working conditions, you’re going to improve your recruitment and retention,” Iaccarino said.

Eyler said the commission has had in impact on the police force.

“Normally we wouldn’t get 18 applications for positions,” he said.

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