From front, Sound Alternatives behavioral health program manager Barb Jewell and former Police Chief Nate Taylor on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith for The Cordova Times

Rural police forces and communities across the state are feeling the squeeze of limited staff, and Cordova is no different. 

Acting Chief of Police Cameron Hayden this week formally requested the Cordova City Council and City of Cordova to reinstate a fifth officer position in his department to bolster staffing and improve working conditions for current police officers. 

The request came in a letter addressed to Mayor David Allison and the City Council members, and appeared in the Nov. 29 City Council agenda. 

Hayden wrote that since the former chief of police’s departure in August, Cordova Police Department (CPD) staff have experienced increased work hours and demands that have affected both their professional and personal lives. 

In his letter, Hayden said CPD’s current trajectory is “unsustainable.” 

“Officers are not able to take vacation or sick days without inconveniencing a fellow officer with on-call time to cover the void,” the letter reads. “So, we tend to work while sick, cut paternity leave short, or not take the time we’re entitled to per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This still leaves us with officers working alone and gaps when we take leave for training or personal leave.” 


Currently, the department has four officer positions and a chief position budgeted, however the chief position is vacant. Hayden writes that when he was hired in 2016 there were a total of six positions, and that in his experience the department needs at least five officer positions to operate. 

Since joining the department seven years ago seven officers have left, the acting chief wrote. He said this was mainly due to burnout and better opportunities elsewhere, noting that training officers to cover the vacant positions costs the city.  

Short staffing isn’t unique the police department either. The need comes at a time when the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department is struggling to find enough emergency personnel, the library is looking for staff, and the city comptroller position is vacant. Cordova also does not currently have a magistrate judge. 

In his letter Hayden wrote that his team has worked 3,140 hours in the past month, but those hours do not reflect the time it takes an officer to close out a call. This includes arrest booking, interviews, department paperwork, and more. He said that these long hours can take a toll on an officer’s mental state and physical health. 

“I have personally spent 24 hours in uniform clearing a single call,” he wrote. With the current staffing levels, he said four officers are “barely treading water.” 

Hayden projected overtime costs to be at $150,000 by the end of the year. 

“Just to keep up with court and department paperwork, there isn’t an officer patrolling, or doing outreach in businesses and schools, or committing time to parking enforcement at local businesses,” the letter reads. “There are several police-provided services already falling by the wayside.” 

Hayden cautioned that the airport contract is most at risk in this situation, which calls for an officer to cover two flights at the airport for four working hours 15 minutes outside of town. 

Hayden argued that Cordova needs 24/7 police coverage, and that in the future he plans on asking the city for another officer position. 

This story originally ran in the Dec. 1 issue of The Cordova Times.