Breaking News
More () »

Coping with a Cop Shortage: Nampa and Meridian police see officer vacancy gaps across county lines

“I think we've seen a whole shift in the culture actually in law enforcement. Six years ago, it wasn't a problem hiring people,” said Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff.

IDAHO, USA — From Canyon County in the West, Kootenai County in the North, and Bonneville County in the East, law enforcement agencies across Idaho are struggling to hire, and retain, officers and staff. 

As the state sees an influx of newcomers, low unemployment, and a hot housing market, coupled with record inflation, some law enforcement agencies are struggling with shortages and burn out, while battling increasing crime. 

Some law enforcement agencies in Idaho are experiencing more promising staffing, even as applications decrease. Law enforcement leaders pointed to Meridian and Nampa, which sit right next to each other but across county lines, with Meridian in Ada County and Nampa in Canyon County.

As these departments find their way above the crisis, many officers are moving from other states or even other local departments to join their ranks. So, can they keep up with workload demand?

As they climb higher on the pay ladder this fiscal year, Nampa police officers’ pay surpasses other agencies in Canyon County. But they made less than officers working across the border in Ada County.

To clarify, the above listed hourly pay does not include overtime and was the minimum officers made at the departments for fiscal year 2022, which ends in September.

Lateral hires coming from other agencies start at higher levels on these agencies’ pay scales. 

Other important pieces play into law enforcement officers’ compensation packages: health benefits, PTO, longevity pay, public employee retirement system of Idaho (PERSI), and specialty and incentive pay.

In fiscal year 2023 (which started in July for the State of Idaho) the maximum pay Idaho Department of Correction officers can make is $39.05 an hour. That's comparable to many Ada County detention deputies' recently-approved new hourly wages for FY 2023 (beginning October 1).

Along with raises, IDOC now pays sign-on bonuses and yearly bonuses after five years.

Data from the City of Meridian shows the majority of crimes reported in Meridian are property crimes and crimes against society, like drug violations.

Crimes against persons have been ticking up slightly, while property crimes have been trending down since 2018. However, as Meridian’s population grew over the past four years, the overall crime rate per 100,000 people has dropped each year. 

Meanwhile, Nampa is starting to see an uptick in violent and property crime after seeing a historic drop from 2018-2022.

Nampa PD Chief Joe Huff said they're often running at minimum staffing levels, prioritizing calls for service differently than years past and have slower response times. 

However, his officers still do proactive community policing. He attributes this to CompStat, a system providing information and data to help police allocate resources, respond to specific areas where crime is occurring, and ultimately reduce crime.

KTVB also checked in with Ada County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), Boise Police Department (BPD), Caldwell Police Department (CPD), and Twin Falls Police Department (TFPD). 

ACSO is not feeling the pinch on the deputy side, but is extremely short on nurses in the jail and can not fill administrative roles.  

BPD is down 32 officers, which is about 10% of its force. Data shows the agency saw a higher turnover rate last year compared to the two years prior, with applications decreasing, housing prices soaring, and other agencies offering competitive pay. However, BPD said more than 100 people recently applied for entry level officer positions.

CPD has 78 allotted employees for fiscal year 2023 and is down 10 officers, leaving them with 68 filled positions. The department said it has never been this low on officers in comparison to population size and community demands. However, they have seen an increase in recruitment in the last month. 

TFPD said the department has 81 sworn positions and just four vacancies, which they said is standard for them. However, they are having difficulty finding and attracting new recruits. Previously, TFPD lost people to Boise and other large cities with better compensation. A few years ago, work was done by the council to improve wages and marketing.

Note: ACSO vacancies shown in the above graph combine numbers for deputies and non-sworn staff.

7 Investigates:

KTVB’s award winning investigative team reports on local, crime, and breaking news across Idaho.

KTVB is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the KTVB mobile app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Daily 7 newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.

Before You Leave, Check This Out