CLEVELAND — Police departments are on the hunt. Not for criminals, but for recruits.
Several departments in our area – and all over the country - are experiencing a shortage of officers, and all are struggling to recruit new candidates.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re going thru a hard time in this profession, and you have less people interested in this as a career,” says Parma Heights Police Chief Steve Scharschmidt.
With the deaths of people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of officers, general mistrust of police has made it hard for some departments to find new recruits.
“We’re not strangers to what national narratives might be out there concerning police officers, especially being police officers at this particular time," says Lt. Michael Miller of the Akron Police Department.
Not to mention, smaller departments are competing against larger police departments for candidates.
“Some are doing sign-on bonuses; some have a very attractive pay schedule. [These are] some things I can not compete with,” says Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch, who has had to pull officers from his department’s Drug Unit and Detective Bureau to fill open positions.
“There are some cities that I can’t contend with. Their pay is better; there’s no question,” says Chief Scharschmidt, who needs 4 more officers to bring his 29-officer force up to its budgeted 33 officers.
“I came on 22 years ago; 3… 4… 5,000 applicants would apply for opportunities. Now, I would say 3 to 400, 3 to 500, in that range,” says Lt. Miller, who is short 26 officers on his 442-officer force.
“We had 48 applicants for our testing. We used to have around 500,” says Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch.
Police department heads are remaining optimistic that they will find good, qualified candidates to fill their openings – even if they have to search out of state. Many are already actively looking for candidates outside of Ohio. All agree that if you’re interested in a career in law enforcement, one of the first places to start is on the police department’s social media page.
“We’re recruiting mainly through our social media pages. We're using billboards, community outreach at colleges, and we have a 5-person recruitment team that goes to churches and businesses looking for qualified candidates. There are challenges in this community - challenges around the country - that we recognize, but it’s none that we shy away from,” says Lt. Miller.
Editor's Note: The below video aired as part of a previously published story