They play a critical role in our city: the women and men who protect and serve. 

But Knoxville does not have enough police officers -- and that's costing taxpayers millions. 

The Knoxville Police Department is authorized for 416 people, but at the latest count only had 369. 

In 2018, the department spent $2.12 million on overtime. Halfway through this year, it was on track to spend even more -- and the department has lost most officers in the months since. 

RELATED: Lacking full staff, KPD resorts to paying officers millions in overtime

Recruiter JuJuan Hamilton said low employment makes it hard to find qualified applicants and distrust between law enforcement and the community does not help. 

"The economy is doing really great right now," Hamilton said. "The reputation and relationship with the community matters. That is a good selling point for our department -- is our relationship with the community." 

The chief said in July she worries that relationship could be in danger after a 10News investigation exposed serious allegations of misconduct -- including a video of a now-former sergeant making vulgar comments during a roll call meeting. 

RELATED: Records: At least 10 KPD personnel investigated for harassment, sex-related behavior since 2014

RELATED: KPD: Internal affairs investigation into misconduct stalled by uncooperative witness

RELATED: 'A slap in the face': Knoxville mayor, police chief respond to vulgar video that led to KPD internal investigations

Chief Eve Thomas said recruiting is one of the reasons she decided to talk about the investigation. 

"I need to make it clear that this is not indicative of the men and women who proudly serve this community every day," she said at a press conference at the time.

KPD has a new marketing campaign in the works and has converted two cruisers to rolling recruitment billboards.