The Omaha Police Department has begun actively recruiting officers from Lincoln as part of an aggressive effort to bolster its ranks, something that concerns Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister.

His officers have received emails at home and work, as well as phone calls, attempting to lure them east to the state's largest law enforcement agency, the chief said Wednesday.

"It worries me that there's going to be an exodus," Bliemeister told members of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon at the Country Club of Lincoln.

Last year, four Lincoln police officers joined an Omaha recruit class.

Omaha police officials have eyed raising the number of officers from 822 to more than 900 by late 2019, for a ratio of two officers per 1,000 residents, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Lincoln's officer-to-resident ratio has lagged, but since 2016, the City Council and Mayor Chris Beutler have added 23 new officer positions, bringing the city's authorized force to 347, Bliemeister said.

While he worries about Lincoln's officers being increasingly stretched for time because of high call volumes in a growing city, Bliemeister said he doesn't believe his department needs to match the pace at which Omaha's department is adding to its ranks. 

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"We would have to hire 185 officers today, which is impossible," the chief said.

The price tag would reach as much as $16 million annually, and the applicants aren't there.

Ten years ago, 680 people applied to join the department's recruit class, and 30 were hired as officers, Bliemeister said in an interview following his wide-ranging speech.

Applications dropped by more than a third this year, he said, noting such an effort would require compromising hiring standards.

A massive hiring effort may not be prudent for this city, which has seen violent crime decline by nearly a third in the last 10 years, Bliemeister said.

But there's a community solution to this staffing challenge, the chief said as he implored Chamber members to encourage talented people with an eye on service to think about becoming officers.

"Send them to us," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


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