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Meet the Northeast Ohio police officer in charge of improving police hiring statewide

Sarah Shendy
Posted at 4:00 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 18:23:50-05

COPLEY, Ohio — After taking the reins of the newly formed Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment last year, Copley Police officer Sarah Shendy continues to pave a clearer path for future police officers.

“There is not an office, like the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment, that exists anywhere in the country,” she said.

When Gov. Mike DeWine announced the formation of the new office, he said it would focus on addressing the growing gap of vacancies in law enforcement spanning police departments large and small.

“It’s really hard for me to believe nobody thought about this before because we’re doing so much,” Shendy said.

Earlier this year, DeWine unveiled a new pilot program to help fast-track students looking to enter law enforcement.

Gary Wolske, a longtime member of the Garfield Heights Police Department and now the president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, sees just how hard it is to hire, especially when some departments only pay anywhere from $15-20 dollars an hour.

“Not a lot of people want this job anymore,” he said. “Why would you want to take that burden and put your life on the line for the same price you could get at McDonald's?”

On top of the pay, the hours, and the training, Wolske told News 5 departments just aren’t seeing the same pool of applicants anymore, in part because of recent headlines nationwide.

I would have a difficult time convincing people to do [the test] if they were a friend of mine," he said. "I would tend to go take the fire test because everybody likes firemen.”

For Shendy, step one of addressing this shortage means addressing how police departments utilize resources and money to help keep the officers they have.

“We have to refine our community relations,” she said. “All of the police departments that are short on manpower, and there’s a lot; their officers are just responding to calls. Their officers don't even have the time or luxury to patrol like we do.”

Unlike a normal job, Shendy detailed how becoming a police officer takes more than just an application, which is why her team spent the last year rolling out their website that explains every step in the process.

Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment
A screenshot of the Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment website, which highlights the steps it takes to become a police officer.

“If the information is not made readily available, we lose people,” she said. “How did we not have a website before that educated people on law enforcement and the hiring process? It’s very overwhelming.”

Additionally, Shendy says she’s focused on establishing a statewide mentorship program for more than just those getting into law enforcement.

“I think we need it for those in law enforcement, especially for women and minorities,” she said. “When you make the commitment to come into this job, it's really a life-altering decision. It’s not just your life, it's also your family’s life.”

Going forward, she hopes her push will help draw more minorities and women into what’s been a male-dominated profession.

“It’s so important and I think it's long overdue,” Shendy said. “[At one point,] I was the only female on nights, so if they had a victim of domestic violence or a victim of sexual assault or a female that needed patted down, I was going as far as an hour north and an hour south to help other agencies because there were no females in the area. How did we come to this point? How are there no females on the road?”

While each day can bring a new set of challenges, Shendy still encourages anyone interested in becoming a police officer to browse the Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment website to learn more.

“This is the best job on the planet and you can’t tell me otherwise,” she said. “We have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.”