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Sinking Morale Hampers Recruitment, Diversity Efforts For Peoria Public Safety Agencies

Morale is “low” within the Peoria Fire Department’s workforce, according to Assistant Fire Chief James Bachman.

Bachman presented what he called “not a good report” to the city council Monday night regarding the department’s workforce recruiting and diversity efforts. In 2020, resignations rose while hiring and overall diversity fell, he said.

Bachman said there have been nine resignations from the department in the last two years, including numerous firefighters who were added to the force as recently as 2018.

“Just to put some context real quick behind this, in the 10 years prior to 2019 we had one resignation. Just one," said Bachman.

Bachman said fears of job security and “not feeling valued as an employee” were common themes throughout exit interviews.

Currently, the fire department employs 177 people compared to the 2014 high of 214. The force is currently 87% White male, 8% African American, and 3% female.

Interim Police Chief Douglas Theobald presented the diversity report for the Police Department. While there has been a 20% increase in minority hiring so far in 2021, that has yet to offset last year’s employee departures from the police department, he said.

"We’re definitely playing catch up and trying to hire as quick as we can. It takes one day to retire, but it takes about 10 months to train someone to replace them," said Theobald.

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