Police struggle with fewer number of people looking to ‘serve and protect’

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The racial unrest which swept the country following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 resulted in increased public scrutiny of police departments and how they go about enforcing laws. It also has lead to fewer people pursuing a career in law enforcement.

According to a study by the Police Executive Research Forum, departments across the nation are facing a hiring crisis.

Even before the George Floyd incident, a 2019 study by the Police Executive Research Forum showed that police departments across the country were facing a hiring crisis. That crisis has become even larger now due to fewer applications by those wanting to become a police officer having some wonder is the badge losing it’s charm.

Fort Wayne Police told WANE 15 back in April of this year that the department was starting to see a decrease in applications, mainly in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and the protests the promptly followed.

WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee spoke with the New Haven Police Department and the Allen County’s Sheriff’s department to see if they are experiencing the same issue.

New Haven’s Chief of Police Jeff McCracken said that there is a multitude of reasons of why applications are so low. He said, the perception of police officers has gone down over the years.

“You turn on some of the different news channels and all they see is negative, so that is kind of the light they perceive us in. They don’t see everything what goes on, on a day to day basis, like how officers are out there helping the citizens and helping the children and teaching the schools,” said Chief McCracken.

He added that 10-years ago, his department would probably receive 75 to 80 applications a year. In the current recruitment cycle, only 24 applications were submitted. McCracken also believes that the demands of the job are just too much for the type of person who once upon a time would have been an ideal candidate for police work.

“The nice thing is that the quality of applicants is still there, so we are still finding highly qualified individuals to join our force, it’s just that the numbers are definitely lower than relatively 10-years ago,” Chief McCracken said.

The Allen County Sheriff’s Department isn’t faced with the hiring challenges of other departments because of how it hires officers. About four years ago, the department realized that filling jobs in the jail was becoming a difficult task, so it streamlined the hiring process. Civilian applicants for jobs at the jail become candidates for sheriff’s deputy positions.

“It’s the lowest spot on totem pole initially in the criminal justice system, it’s not a glamorous job, but it’s a fun job and good job,” said Deputy Chief Troy Hershberger, Allen County Sheriff’s Department. “With the problem that we had, we felt like it would be best if we promoted police officers from within our own ranks.”

Deputy Chief Hershberger added that promoting within the ranks help make the position more attractive and appealing.

The Sheriff’s department isn’t seeing a lack of officers on the force, but currently in the need of recruits for the jail cell. Deputy Chief Hershberger, said ever since this process was implemented there was always a wait list to be hired at the jail, but within the last six-months there have been fewer applicants.

“We do [the hiring process] weekly,” said Deputy Chief Hershberger. “We used to average up to 10-people a week coming in, now we see about two to three. We have seen our numbers drop, but that doesn’t mean our pool is dried up. “

To attract more applicants, the Sheriff’s department lowered the age limit from 21 to 18, in hopes to attract high school students who aren’t destined for college or the military. Deputy Chief Hershberger said he doesn’t believe the protest had an impact on the hiring aspect for the department.

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