Housing prices handcuff law enforcement recruiters
Editor’s Note: The press publishes numerous articles reflecting the impacts of the explosive growth of the region. This is one of the stories.
HEART OF ALENE – Experienced police officers across the country want to work for law enforcement in Kootenai County.
There is just one problem.
They cannot afford to live here.
Coeur d’Alene Police Captain Dave Hagar said the agency is not actively recruiting officers from outside northern Idaho. But the nominations still come from officers from Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas and Florida.
“People see the lifestyle of northern Idaho – outdoor recreation, low crime,” Hagar said. “They see it as a great place to work.”
Candidates hired by other law enforcement agencies are called lateral transfers.
Despite the interest of these agents, Hagar said recruiting can be difficult, in large part because of soaring house prices.
In April, the Wall Street Journal / Realtor.com Emerging Housing Market Index identified Coeur d’Alene as the hottest emerging real estate market in the country.
The median residential selling price in the Coeur d’Alene area increased in March to $ 476,000, according to the Coeur d’Alene Real Estate Association, a 47% increase from the previous year .
“Five years ago, the cost of living in Coeur d’Alene was much more reasonable,” Hagar said. “Now it’s on top of that. “
Hiring a mix of local and side candidates is a clear positive for the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Hagar said. Agents who come from outside the region bring with them new perspectives, ideas and techniques.
“We must constantly evolve to meet the needs of our community,” he said. “A diverse group of employees works very well for us.
Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said his agency is actively courting officers outside of northern Idaho.
“Especially those good officers who are in communities who find it difficult to support their law enforcement agencies,” he said.
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office advertises in law enforcement trade publications, Norris said, focusing on Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Norris said a number of side agents have accepted job offers only to decline after finding they cannot afford housing.
“It’s a big obstacle,” he said. “The housing situation is serious.
This is true for side and local candidates. Norris referred to a KCSO employee who had no choice but to leave the state to live with his family when his rent went up by $ 800 a month.
In addition to deputies, the agency is looking for dispatchers, control room operators, clerks and prison staff.
“We’re going to have to attract local candidates,” Norris said. “We can’t do that when part of our salary is $ 14 or $ 15 an hour. “
Norris said KCSO needs the support of the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners, which sets the agency’s budget.
“We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Kootenai County Commissioner Bill Brooks said the sheriff’s office was not the only agency in the county struggling to find and retain employees.
Wages that were once considered normal are simply not enough.
“It’s crazy,” Brooks said. “People took jobs and came back two days later saying ‘I can’t live here’. “
Brooks said funding reasonable pay increases is his top priority this year.
In order for the county to continue to operate, he said, sometimes it is necessary to reach the top of a position’s pay scale or even offer a retention bonus to employees essential to day-to-day operations.
“The most important thing we have in this county are the people who work for us,” Brooks said.
While law enforcement is essential, he noted that commissioners are required to provide as much support as possible to all agencies in the county, so that they can carry out their duties.
Because the county’s resources are limited, Brooks said agencies should focus on funding existing programs and employees, rather than adding new ones.
“We’re trying to come up with a budget that no one satisfies but that we can all live with,” Brooks said. “This is a budget for needs only. “
Brooks said there was no quick or easy solution to the problem of stagnant wages and rising costs of living.
“We’re going to have to go through this together,” he said. “Everyone in Kootenai County. “