The Payson Police Department has new badges, but not enough officers to pin them on.
Due to recent personnel changes, the department is short three patrol officers, and to compensate, detectives have been put back on the street.
"We have three openings, and have two new officers in the academy right now," Chief Gordon Gartner said. "The new officers are Henry Thomason he's been with the sanitary district for about 10 years and Mike Varga, who has been in town for about five years." Varga, the chief said, worked as a police dispatcher and for the Gila County probation department before entering the police academy.
Recruiting for the third position ended Thursday, during which the department was searching for an experienced officer. Applicants who completed the paperwork by the deadline will begin testing in two weeks. After the testing process, the successful candidate also will attend the police academy.
"It really is an officer's market right now," Gartner said. "With Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe ... everybody's looking for officers and everybody's looking for the same type of person."
The chief said the Payson department, which currently has 13 patrol officers on staff, pays an average wage, compared to other town's of similar size.
"We do a market analysis every two years, and compare salaries with other cities," he said. "We find out what they're paying for different positions, and create an average. We try to fit right in there."
The starting salary for local officers is about $30,000, and the top pay is $46,000.
The new shield
Gartner said when the department moved to the new police station, he also began looking at the overall image of the department.
"The badges our officers were wearing was originally the symbol of the Payson Marshal's office," the chief said. "It was basically just a star.
"Our new shield is more of what people associate with police departments."
Each shield contains the words "Payson Police Department," and "Millennium 2000," as well as the officer's employee number."