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Salt Lake City, Utah, officials have ruled to end a seven-month hiring freeze to allow the police department to fill almost 60 roles amid spiking crime and a surge in officers walking away from the job, according to a recent report.
City council members voted unanimously on Tuesday to allow Salt Lake City Police Department to hire 59 people for the first time since June for jobs in need of filling, but stopped short of adding funds to the agency’s budget, local affiliate FOX 13 Salt Lake City reported.
“We’re not asking to increase the budget of the police department,” said Councilmember Chris Wharton during Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re asking to give the same level of service that we were offering back in June.”
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said there will be 57 open SLCPD positions by the end of January. The need for more officers comes at a time when crime is on the rise and personnel numbers are declining, according to the report.
Property and violent crimes combined jumped 24% from the 13,479 reported in 2019 to the 16,730 recorded in 2020, the outlet reported.
Police response times have become a concern, with Mendenhall stressing: “Everybody deserves a response when they pick up and call 911.”
“I’ve heard from residents and businesses and people who have visited our city about their experiences of not having a fast enough call-response time with our police officers,” Mendenhall said, according to the report, “and the very real crime increases in property and violent crime that we’ve experienced in Salt Lake City.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this month that 67%, or 38 of the 57 officers who have left the police department in 2020, have resigned. According to the report, 38 officers left the year prior, with half quitting and the remainder retiring.