U. of South Florida Police Force Understaffed, Struggling

TAMPA, Fla. – The University of South Florida (USF) is confronting a serious understaffing problem, so severe that at times, if two officers are catching speeding drivers, the rest of the 1,500 acre campus is left essentially unattended.

USF has only one armed officer for every 916 students at its main Tampa campus, and the majority of its officers have less than five years’ experience. USF’s ranks are so thin that for large events, such as graduation ceremonies, the department has to enlist the help of Florida Fish and Wildlife officers.

The university has been dealing with budget cuts, which have prevented it from presenting a competitive benefits package to potential employees who have better-paying alternatives nearby with the Tampa police and the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office.

Starting pay for USF officers is $35,041, about $4,000 less than other local forces, and there’s no plan guaranteeing raises based on the number of years spent with the force. Some speculate that because of this, the school currently has 11 positions vacant.

An independent security consultant, Hallcrest Systems Inc., offered contributions to the university to help reach a fair salary package for campus safety officers including recommendations from an outside source help to remove emotion from the contract table. This way, USF and the police union can focus on the important needs of the campus, once pay is no longer an issue.

As a result of the recommendations, USF has hired private guards to improve security near campus dormitories.

However, there are still complaints about the pay. The police budget includes funds for 53 officer positions, including a percentage for a pay increase when looking at the overall budget as a whole. However, representatives for USF said both the university and officers have hardened on their positions on what is considered to be fair pay, causing an impasse.

For additional information on the national state of campus law enforcement salaries, please read The Road to Competitive Salaries: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back.

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