Multiple officer involved shootings leave Topeka Police short staffed
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Three officer-involved shootings in the past few months have raised concerns about the stress on police officers and their ability to keep you safe, as it’s taken officers off the streets.
We spoke with Chief of Police, Bryan Wheeles who says the situation is unfortunate but under control.
“We are encountering situations that have levels of mental illness and illegal drug usage and violence that is somewhat unprecedented for us and I think certainly the number of officer involved shootings we had in this short of timeframe speaks to that. We have had some crime reduction in other areas and cities around us have experienced that kind of increase across the board and we’ve talked about that on many occasions,” says Chief Wheeles.
According to Police Chief, Bryan Wheeles, the department has budgeted for 299 officers and are currently at 261, with 14 officers currently on administrative leave.
When it comes to administrative leave Chief Wheeles, says there is no general time frame that an officer can be out for and that it all depends on the individual case.
“I think what everybody has to understand and keep in mind is that the entire essence of this profession is flexibility. So we are constantly reallocating manpower and resources and this is one of the great things about law enforcement officers, they’ve all stepped up on different shifts and different assignment and are all helping out with the primary needs that we have when this kind of situations come up,” says Chief Wheeles.
Local Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, Chief Steward, Matt Blassingame said TPD already was facing what he called a ‘staffing crisis’ with the vacancies, but said “Despite these challenges, the men and women of the Topeka Police Department continue to step forward and diligently protect and serve our community”.
Even with staffing numbers low, Chief Wheeles says the department is not too concerned.
“I think that should be reassuring to the public that we’re comfortable with where we are and with the allocations and the adjustments that we’ve made and we’ll continue to reevaluate those and move forward. Public safety in the capital will remain effective and we will be there 24/7 like we have been up to this point,” says Chief Wheeles.
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