DETROIT (WXYZ) — Just last month at a graduation ceremony held at police headquarters, the Detroit Police Department welcomed 19 of its newest officers.
“We have some of the best-trained officers in the country,” said the city’s new interim Chief James White. “We get great experience here. We want to keep our good police officers.”
But too often, Detroiters are paying a small fortune to train cops who, not long after graduating from the academy, go on to protect other communities. The problem has existed for years, but the city's new top cop is working to reverse the trend.
Since 2014, 219 Detroit officers have left for other departments within 3 years of graduating from the academy, with the overwhelming majority trading their Detroit badges for nearby cities that offer higher pay and lower crime.
The cost to Detroit taxpayers to train just one officer is significant. In addition to academy expenses, officers receive a salary and their own equipment, bringing the total cost per officer to about $60,000.
According to data supplied by the city, 14 new officers alone left DPD to join the Warren Police Department, 13 went to the Oakland County Sheriff and another 13 were hired by Taylor police.
“I’m not trying to prevent any officer from going to any department they choose to go to, we certainly want to keep them here,” White said. “But what is troubling is when other agencies attempt to use us to train the officers and later hire the officers.”
White took over as Detroit’s interim chief last week, but prior to that, he spent 25 years in the department.
While an assistant chief, he attended all of the department’s graduation ceremonies where he said he spotted chiefs from other departments in the audience.
“It did give me pause a number of times when I saw chiefs of police at our graduations, not participating at the graduations, but congratulating our applicants only to find later that those applicants were working for those police agencies,” White said.
The department estimates that since 2014, Detroit taxpayers have spent about $12.5 million training cops now policing other city’s streets.
While officials with Taylor Police, Warren Police, and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office sympathize with Detroit’s situation, they each insisted that they’re not recruiting officers from the city.
Instead, they say the officers applied after hearing glowing reviews about their departments from current cops.
Warren Chief William Dwyer said his department is dealing with its own challenges, struggling to fill vacancies in a charged climate for police.
“The pool for police officers is not what it was a decade ago,” Dwyer said. “We’re actually down fifteen officers right now.”
In Lansing, one Detroit lawmaker is trying to help alleviate the problem for Detroit and other communities experiencing an exodus of new officers.
While she was a member of Michigan House, Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) introducing legislation that would require officers or their new police employers to repay the cost to train them, based on how much time they spent in the department.
The bill ultimately stalled, but now as a Senator, Santana introduced another version she’s hoping will be signed by Governor Whitmer.
“When you don’t have to pay for the cost of training an individual and other taxpayers from another municipality are picking up that expense but never receiving the actual benefit or service of public safety, it becomes an issue,” Santana said.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.