SHERIDAN — Emergency services agencies in Sheridan County boast nearly perfect retention rates and consider the positive atmosphere and extensive hiring process of each entity part of the reason for such low turnover.
Sheridan Fire-Rescue retained its entire staff in 2015 and lost only one to retirement in 2016. The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Detention Center see minimal turnover, but also see about 25 percent of the SCSO patrol staff coming directly from the jail. SPD lost nine employees in the past two years, keeping its retention rates between 85-90 percent.
Sheridan County’s agencies are on par with other agencies around the state of Wyoming. The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department, as well as Natrona County Sheriff’s Office retention rates also stayed above 90 percent in the last two years.
Sheridan County officials said they retain staff through maintaining and creating opportunities for advancement within the agency.
Potential officers undergo an extensive process of physical, psychological, polygraph and other tests before hiring on with SPD.
“We set them up for success through training and job satisfactions,” Lt. Tom Ringley of SPD said.
In addition to the hiring process, attending the academy and continued training, SPD gives officers the opportunity to make the police department better by pursuing their own interests or specialties.
“Staff at the PD can identify a career field interest, and if it fills a need at the police department, they can certainly run with it,” Ringley said. “A good example would be the newly-established K9 program.”
In 2012, SPD established the leadership position of corporal to offer more vertical movement within the department. Top performers also earn trainer statuses that allow them to control training sessions.
As deputies continue with SCSO, Lt. Allen Thompson said seniority results in modest pay increases and a better selection of preferred shifts. SCSO retains 25 percent of its detention staff with horizontal movement to the SCSO patrol division.
“The detention center is typically seen as a stepping stone to a patrol-oriented career in law enforcement,” said Lt. Emily Heizer, the detention supervisor.
Because of Wyoming’s statewide pension package, SCSO loses deputies for higher-paying law enforcement jobs around the state. Of the deputies that left in the past three years, Thompson said 41 percent did so for other law enforcement employment and 25 percent retired. But the SCSO also sees the benefit of the statewide pension package with new hires.
“Conversely, we have hired 41 percent that had previous law enforcement experience in Wyoming,” Thompson said.
SPD officials said they see the department as a destination, not training grounds like some small departments.
“We’re an ending point where people will come and work 20 years,” said Ringley, who has served the Sheridan community for 17 years.
He also noted that the community caters to families looking to settle down.
“We definitely have a family atmosphere and we constantly check up on new staff and check up on all staff regardless of how long they’ve been here,” Ringley said.
Officials with the SCSO also noted their efforts to hire community oriented individuals as a way to retain sworn deputies and other staff members.
“We have discovered that recruiting people from other geographic areas is not cost effective, as most leave within two years,” Thompson said.
Sheridan’s law enforcement and fire departments have similar retention rates as Gillette’s agencies.
All organizations in the 2015 and 2016 years held retention rates above 85 percent.