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Police departments struggle to find recruits who want to protect and serve

Posted at 5:04 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-27 18:55:19-04

Chief Joe Urso is the only full-time officer on the Mantua Police Department. He has ten part-timers and would like to hire three or four auxiliary officers who he would make part-time officers in the future.

The problem is, he only has a handful of applications at a time when it's tough to find people willing to protect and serve in a village of only 1,000 people.

"Nobody is banging down the door like ten or 15 years ago to come into this line of work," Urso said.

The chief said he has seen fewer candidates due to intense scrutiny on television and social media over police-involved shootings.

"I've always told the officers, if we can do nine things right, nobody will notice. If we do one thing that's questionable in the community's eyes, it's going to be a wrong thing. There is some scrutiny there."

In addition, Urso said the $13 to $19 hourly pay isn't a big sell, and several smaller departments in the county are losing officers to larger departments such as Kent.

"It's a big struggle in this area, because some of the younger kids are fresh out of the academy. They want to go to bigger cities where they want to raise a family," Urso said.

Lt. Mike Lewis with Kent Police said the department is at full staff with 43 officers. The last time it held a civil service test, more than 100 people showed up.

Still, Lewis said recruiting efforts had to be more aggressive to find potential cops.

"We were very active. We went to the universities. We went to the police academies. We speak to them and educated them about what a great place the city of Kent is in right now," Lewis said.

In October of 2017, Massillon police said they were struggling to hire three new police officers in part because many of the applicants failed background checks. That struggle continues. The department is currently trying to hire four officers.

Lt. Lewis believes the difficulty in finding police officers is cyclical.

"We've seen stuff like this before," he said. "I honestly believe that there are still a whole lot of people out there who want to serve."