On April 24, 2024

Killington Police Chief proposes recruitment/retention plan

Dept. is half size, chief says he needs tools to get applicants

By Curt Peterson

Faced with recruitment and retention challenges, Killington Chief of Police Whit Montgomery asked for the Select Board’s approval of a proposed “Recruitment and Retention Policy” Monday night, April 22. According to Montgomery, police departments across the country are having the same problem with recruitment — getting people to join the force, and getting them to stay on the force is challenging.

Currently, the Killington Dept. is down to just two: Chief Montgomery and officer Mike Hoffman.

“The town has budgeted for two more officers, and the town needs them, our call volume is already up over last year,” he said.

In the first three months of this year, the dept took 462 calls and responded to 305 cases for a total of 767 incidents — an 18% increase of that same time in 2023.

“Additionally, the nature of the calls for service are changing, requiring more investigative time and follow up then in past years,” Montgomery explained. “Cases range from assaults, alarm response, motor vehicle enforcement, drug cases, service of civil process, alcohol related incidents and animal complaints.”

Chief Montgomery and Town Manager Michael Ramsey proposed a plan that included sign-on bonuses up to $10,000 with $5,000 awarded after FTO/training and the remainder after a year of employment, following a performance evaluation. A retention bonus after 5-plus years of full-time service garnered $5,000 and after 10 years of full-time service, an $8,000 bonus.

Additional bonuses for achieving certification for certain skills and passing a physical fitness test were suggested.

“There’s a small pool to draw from,” Montgomery said. “And we need to be competitive among other municipalities searching for officers.”

On the retention side, Montgomery said officers most often quit because they decide to leave law enforcement altogether. But poaching by other departments occurs as well.

“That’s why we have to be more forward-thinking and at least offer what other towns are offering,” he said.

He gave the selectmen a list of starting salaries from seven departments: Stowe, Manchester, Dover, Winhall, Ludlow, Rutland City and the VSP. The average pay was $29.22 per hour. Killington’s starting salary for new officers is $28 per hour. Montgomery said the bonus plan is meant to make joining and staying with his department more attractive.

He plans to hire a professional recruiter to help with the strategy.

The cost of hiring a recruiter, the chief said, will come from the department’s budget. 

“We are down two officers right now, which gives a little leeway,” he said.

The selectmen had a lot of questions, but they agreed on two things: The police department has to do something to obtain and keep officers for the good of the town, and Montgomery should hire a professional recruiter to go over his proposal and bonus plan. Montgomery told the Mountain Times he will be working with Michael Ramsay, town manager, to make sure they have tools ready for the recruiter to use in attracting new officers.

In two weeks they will present a refined plant to the board.

Killington is not alone, the shortage of Vermont State troopers has left many small municipalities, including Hartland, seeking affordable replacement for VSP police coverage that the state has told them they don’t have the manpower to provide. Rutland city has also struggled to fill vacancies for many years.

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