PAYNESVILLE -- The city of Paynesville will start offering its police officers one month sabbaticals in the new year.

Paynesville Police Chief Paul Wegner says in recent years his department has struggled to recruit and retain officers beyond a few years.

He says some staff were lured away by larger agencies offering better pay. Others struggled with issues including burn-out which ultimately led them to leave the profession altogether.

This year the department is expanding on its Health and Wellness program which has been in place since 2018 by offering a one-month paid sabbatical for officers after five years of service.

It is believed that this is the first law enforcement agency in the state to offer this. The officers can take up to 160 hours without having to utilize their paid time off.

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Wegner says officers can use the time to focus on decompressing, relaxing, and re-charging.

The benefit goes into effect in January.

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