Golden Valley faces police shortage while surrounding agencies are almost fully staffed

Golden Valley faces police shortage while surrounding agencies are almost fully staffed

Golden Valley faces police shortage while surrounding agencies are almost fully staffed

Over the past few years, police officers in the city of Golden Valley have left in droves, leaving the department in dire need of officers. However, police shortage in the west metro is an anomaly, as many neighboring agencies aren’t feeling the same staffing pinch. 

Golden Valley Police Chief Virgil Green has been in charge of the police department for only about a year, but he’s already faced with a tough task to recruit and retain. 

“When I got here, staffing level was much higher than it is now. So over the past year, the agency has seen definitely a decrease in our patrol division,” Green said. 

The city is authorized for 31 officers but currently is only staffed with 14. Green says over the past couple of months, the department has seen an increase in applicants and is expecting a few people to come in after completing field training. 

Jim Mortenson, the executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services, says as recently as 2020, Golden Valley was fully staffed, but 28 of those officers have since left the department.

“They have lost decades of experience and knowledge in both the sworn police offices side of the police department, as well as the civilian side of the police department,” Mortenson said. 

Green blames the mass departure partly on the city’s investigation last year, which alleged a “toxic workplace culture.” He also claims his race may have had something to do with some of the officers leaving, too.

“I mean, you’re dealing with a city that’s over 89% white. You’re dealing with a police department that’s almost 100% white. To me, as a Black man, I would have to look at that and say, ‘I wonder why?'” Green said.

Mortenson argues the department’s reputation and “failed leadership” is the culprit, not race. 

“They have brought their police department to its knees and to the brink of implosion. Their reputation in the law enforcement community is terrible, which affects their ability to hire good, qualified candidates,” Mortenson said. 

Other agencies do not have staffing crises of the same magnitude as Golden Valley

Contrary to Golden Valley’s alarming police staffing level, neighboring agencies have not had as many problems with recruitment and retention. The city of Crystal says it’s only short two officers.

“Our City Council is very supportive, our city administration, I think all of that is a recipe that makes, you know, hopefully this department one that people want to be at,” Crystal Deputy Police Chief Brian Hubbard said.

Hubbard said while a lot of departments are focused on recruitment, Crystal continues to focus on retention.

“We’re trying to figure out how do we make sure that we’re equipping staff, that we hire the right staff, that we train them correctly, that we are supervising them correctly … but also that they’re supported, that we are encouraging of them.” 

RELATED: Recruiting Realities: Police staffing crisis not the same in every city, data shows

New Hope reports it is only short one officer. Plymouth is authorized for 82 officers and employs 73. Brooklyn Park is budgeted for 107 officers and is currently staffed with 98. St. Louis Park employs 55 officers and is authorized for 60. 

Compared to Golden Valley, these agencies do not have a shortage of its magnitude. 

St. Louis Park Police Chief Bryan Kruelle said his department has spent a great deal of energy on recruitment, which includes the Pathways to Policing program.

“Now more than ever, as many traditional candidates through the school system are down, it’s making sure that we can still find good, strong quality candidates that are out in the community and find pathways, so to speak, to bring them on board into our agency, and the Pathways to Policing program has been an amazing way for us to be able to do that,” Kruelle said. 

Meanwhile, Golden Valley rolled out $10,000 incentives to bring more people on board, hoping to get levels back up by the end of the year. 

“I think we’re going to be in a position to where our staffing is going to be back up to the level where we can take back our day shift,” Green said. 

Decline of applicant pool

“I’ve been in this profession almost 20 years, and when I applied for my first law enforcement job, I believe I applied with about 600 individuals for one open spot at the time. When we post a job right now, we tend to get probably, if we were to get 25 applicants for that one position, we would be pretty excited about that at this state,” Hubbard explained. 

“We must never lose sight of the service and the professionalism that’s expected of us. We work really hard each and every day to make sure that our culture within our organization supports that,” Kruelle said.