Casper police

Police block off a downtown Casper intersection in January of 2016. A newly released department review found patrol staffing levels are appropriate.

An outside review of the Casper Police Department indicates that patrol staffing levels are appropriate, but also recommends ramping up the number of officers on duty during certain busy times such as summer nights.

The review, conducted by the Center for Public Safety Management, indicates that Casper’s police force has a below-average number of officers for a city of its size. However, the review cautions against using that metric to determine staffing levels.

The methodology used in the review to determine appropriate staffing levels is based on officer downtime. No more than 60 percent of officer time should be dedicated to answering calls, according to the report. When officers spend too much time responding to calls, they don’t have enough time to engage in proactive policing. Instead, overworked officers go from call-to-call, without time to initiate police work of their own volition.

Casper officers usually have enough of what is called “discretionary patrol time,” in which they can initiate calls of their own. But the force does break the 60 percent barrier on weekend afternoon and nights in the summer.

To combat this, the review suggests the department ramp up it’s staffing during those busier hours and pull officers off the street during slower times.

The review indicates that “sufficient patrol resources are allocated and available to handle the workload.” Despite this, the review also suggests filling staffing vacancies as soon as possible. Were the department to hire more patrol officers, vacancies in the command structure could be filled via promotion.

The 155-page review has been in the works since March. It used data, officer interviews, a site visit and more to assess all aspects of the department, from record keeping to the handling of investigations. It was released last week.

The review suggests that the department expand its recruitment efforts by attending job fairs, expanding the use of social media and focusing on attracting minorities and women to the department.

Sgt. Ben Mattila, who oversees hiring, said some of those efforts had already been in the works. The department has had an increased presence at job fairs held at military bases in the past few months, and Mattila said he expects that to continue.

The sergeant said that the department has hired “five or six” women in the past three years, though he said not all of those cadets have gone on to become officers and remain with the force.

Meanwhile, the department is reviewing background checks as it undergoes another hiring cycle.

The department is eight officers short of it’s authorized staffing levels. Interim Chief Steve Schulz said in September that during his nearly two decades on the force the department had rarely ever filled the maximum number of positions authorized by City Council.

A police department spokesman said Schulz had not finished going over the results of the review and was not yet available to comment on them.

Mattila said that the department is expecting a couple of officers to retire before the current crop of recruits will be ready to hit the streets. Those recruits will enroll in police academy in January, but it will take at least six more months before they are ready to patrol on their own.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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