Police departments struggle to find new recruits

Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 03, 2016

To serve and protect.

Right now, fewer people are willing to take that pledge.

Police departments all across the country are struggling to find new recruits.

Experts like James Chriss, who wrote a book on community policing, pointed to the so-called “Ferguson Effect.”

Clashes captured on camera in places like Ferguson, Missouri are causing some to stay clear of the profession.     

“Heightened media sensationalism over police use of force is probably scaring away a lot of people," Chriss said.

Another major factor is our economy.

With unemployment rates dropping, people who might have once considered law enforcement can now pass on becoming a police officer.

“Police organizations have to compete more vigorously with the private sector," said Chriss.

As to where the shortage is the greatest, smaller cities and towns seem to be struggling more according to Chriss, who said another deterrent is poor pay and lack of benefits.               

"Yearly salaries of $30,000-$34,000, this is not something that is going to attract a large pool of candidates" added Chriss.

Especially when there's an uptick in police officers killed in the line of duty.

Fewer men and women are stepping-up and suiting-up in blue because of the danger associated with the job.

"Over the last 20 years or so, policing usually doesn't even finish in the top 20 of most dangerous jobs," said Chriss.

Police departments tell NewsChannel 5 people’s perception of officers will eventually shift.

But until then, they will continue to change up the way they recruit, make sure police academies are diverse and represent the communities they serve, and find new ways to compete with an improving economy.

To give you an idea just how many fewer people are applying to be a police officer, one department in Northeast Ohio used to get upwards of 300 applicants every time they hired. Now they're lucky to reach 150.