The Winter Garden Police Department is in the process of hiring more officers. City commissioners received an update on the department’s goals following the reading of mid-year proposed amendments to the annual budget.
Ordinance 19-24, involves $305,187 from the city’s $4.46 million budget. The amount was previously earmarked for police personnel expenses, but the money was not spent due to police officer vacancies.
There are currently 18 openings, with 14 recruits currently at different points in the application process. According to Police Chief Steve Graham, police departments never have a full roster of officers and Winter Garden currently has 90 sworn officers.
To fill the gaps, the department pays its existing staff overtime and assign specialty units patrol duties. Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, there is increased pressure to hire enough officers.
The application process is long and arduous, with potential officers going through months of background investigations, tests and applications. Graham did say that the department is making progress and setting up for the potential future need of school resource officers.