Police struggling with recruitment and retention

Turnover among police officers of the State Police is taking place at a worrying rate, reported LTV's De Facto investigative news show December 17.

Publicly available information indicates that there is an acute shortage of employees in the institution and that the most serious problem is in Riga. Of the approximately 800 police officer vacancies, 500 are in the capital. For example, in the last three months the Latgale region has failed to attract any new inspectors. And every year the situation is getting worse, according to police statistics.

If in 2012 the Riga Region administration lacked was understaffed by 12%, but this year the figure had risen to 17%. Altogether 11.4% of vacancies can not be filled by the State Police this year.

There are also wide variations in workload. In Latgale, each detective must work on average with 130 criminal cases, while in the Kurzeme district of Riga one employee has to deal with up to 500.

Eriks Kalnmeiers, the Attorney General, believes that the situation affects the quality of the investigations carried out.

"The cadre deficit increases the load on the remaining investigators who work. If the investigator, whose case file has 200 items, leaves the service, then his cases must be shared out. Another investigator, who already has 200 things himself, gets perhaps 20 more which he needs to get acquainted with, therefore, the capacity of the police force is a topical subject," Kalnmeiers told De Facto.

However, the greatest lack of staff is among policemen who provide public order. For example, the Special Forces Police Battalion has managed to fill only one of its 40 vacancies since the end of the summer, while the Road Police has one third of its positions vacant. 

Part of the justification for introducing automatic speed cameras is that they shoujld in theory require fewer staff to enforce traffic rules.

Senior police officers explain that about 900 people apply annually to join the police force, but not all of them meet the criteria for selection, including physical fitness tests. In addition, publicly-minded young people are more likely to opt for the armed forces, which now command better wages.

While some of the problems of recruitment are structural and have existed since the 1990s, the situation has been exacerbated in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when wages were and opportunities to work overtime were restricted.

Now it is hoped that European Union funds can be used to help reform working conditions and prospects for professional development to make working in the police a more attractive proposition. 

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