By PoliceOne Staff

LAFAYETTE, La. — Union leaders said a Louisiana police department is facing a critical shortage of officers, which has been affecting response time.

The Lafayette Police Association said the Lafayette Police Department has been short-staffed for more than a year, KATC reports. Union leaders said they have been asking department and city officials repeatedly over that time period to fix the issue, which they said is affecting response times.

“It’s no secret we’ve been short [with] officers for a while,” Lafayette Corporal Karl Ratcliffe told KLFY.

Ratcliffe said the low number is caused by many factors, including low pay.

“We’re losing officers to different agencies, you know state police and things like that, because they have competitive pay,” Ratcliffe said.

The shortage has led the union to take to social media to spread the message about the shortage. They said they hope that by getting the word out, they will be able to educate the public as to what’s happening and create additional pressure for more hires.

“We started letting people know what our day-to-day functions are and what we’re dealing with… The shootings, the aggravated calls that we get, many with weapons, even the multiple car burglaries,” said Scott Rummel, vice president of the association. “[All of that] equates to response time and the amount of officers that are on the road when these things occur.”

Lafayette police said the department would be fully staffed at 277 patrol officers, which the union said is still 45 short of FBI standards. The department currently has about 250 officers.

“We are understaffed. As an agency, there’s some staffing issues. When it comes down to it, the more officers we’re able to put on the road, the more quality service we can give in the community,” Ratcliff said.

The city received a grant last year to add ten officers to the force. But police said they will still have to prioritize calls.

Rummel said the death of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, who was killed in a shootout, highlights the problem with the shortage of officers.

“What can we do to better protect our guys? That particular incident, the officer arrived on scene first and had to wait on his backup, which arrived shortly after but unfortunately it was too late. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent, we want to make sure that our officers are able to respond to those calls in numbers and keep a situation under control. You’re more likely to deter something bad happening to an officer than if you only had one,” he said.

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