Council Memo Reveals Significant Vacancies in Police, Fire, E911, and Corrections – Only Seven Recruits in Police Academy Class

Lexington, Ky.–Fayette County’s public safety positions are currently facing significant understaffing issues, with a lack of officers in Community Corrections, E911, Fire, and Police, according to a March 9 memo to Council obtained by the Lexington Times.

The city’s Community Corrections is dealing with 105 officer vacancies, with only 16 recruits starting on March 6, 2023. However, the department has received 108 applications–of which 76 were submitted, and 32 are in the draft stage–since January 31, 2023.

Similarly, E911 is facing 19 vacancies, which is less than the authorized strength of 79. The Fire department has an authorized strength of 620, but only 600 staff members are currently working, leaving 20 vacancies. Their recent call volume in a 72-hour period over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday included 485 fire calls, 996 EMS calls, two shootings/stabbings, three paramedicine referrals, and ten paramedicine overdoses, according to the memo.

The Police department is also experiencing significant vacancies, with an authorized strength of 639, but only 539 staff members working as of March 9, leaving 100 sworn vacancies. There are currently only seven recruits in the Police Academy, the smallest class in over ten years. There are also 25 Recruit Officers currently in the Field Training Officer Phase.

According to departmental data, LPD’s Spring 2023 police academy class will be the smallest in ten years, at only seven recruits.

To address these understaffing issues, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council recently announced a series of pay increases for public safety workers. On January 31, 2023, the council approved a $7,500 annual raise for Corrections Officers, and in recent months, Police Officers and Sergeants received an $8,000 pay raise, Police Lieutenants received a $5,000 pay raise, and Firefighters, Lieutenants, and Captains received a $5,500 pay raise. Corrections Lieutenants and Captains also received a $7,000 pay raise.

Mayor Linda Gorton said that the salary increases were implemented to make public safety salaries more competitive in the job market and improve the retention of quality employees. She acknowledged that the city had difficulty attracting recruits and retaining officers, particularly in Police and Corrections, and stated that safety was essential and “the foundation of the city’s quality of life.”

The pay raises bring the starting pay for Corrections to more than $50,000 a year. The department also agreed to limited rehiring of part-time corrections employees, allowing supervisory staff to fill overtime slots, and allowing lateral hires from other Corrections facilities to receive starting pay based on experience.

Additionally, the Governor recently signed Senate Bill 89 into law. The bill will allow the legislative body of an urban-county government such as Lexington to re-employ individuals as police officers who have retired from the Police and Fire Retirement Fund. This bill was put forward to help reduce the existing officer shortage. The legislation was well-received by local officials, according to a news release from the Governor’s office.

The overall cost of the recent city pay raises is estimated to be $17 million per year. The Council set aside $26 million this year to absorb a portion of the cost in future years. City workers outside of public safety also received a 3% pay raise in January.

Top photo: A screenshot of an internal LFUCG memo obtained by The Lexington Times.