SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling to find applicants.
According to a survey with the National Police Foundation in 2020, around 86% of departments reported being understaffed. Some things can be intimidating when it comes to a career in law enforcement.
The first thing someone has to do to become an officer is going to the police academy, which is a year without salary. Even if you graduated from the academy, there is no guarantee you’ll have a job.
“Statewide, as far as troopers go, we’re about 63 people down,” said Captain John Hotz with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“We’re a small county, we’re just currently looking for one patrolman right now, we’re also probably 20 or 30% low on our jail staff as well,” said Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole.
Both Hotz and Cole say law enforcement provides a good salary, retirement benefits, and a good culture.
“You are serving people, you’re making your communities better and a safer place to live, ” said Hotz.
“These are environments that are filled with very good men and women that are trying to do the right thing,” said Cole.
So, why is the nation seeing a shortage of young people choosing law enforcement as a career?
“The attitudes towards law enforcement right now kind of make it a challenge as far as recruiting qualified applicants,” said Hotz.
“Used to be something that people look up to and try to role model and respect about, I think that’s a little different,” said Cole. “I think a lot of it tends to do with some of the national politics and some of the language that’s going on about law enforcement officers. Somebody makes mistakes, when you’re in law enforcement, it’s just multiplied, and everybody recognizes it, but what they don’t recognize is the millions of contacts that we have with people every single day that is nothing but positive.”
“A lot of the interactions we have are extremely positive, we rarely come across something negative,” said Park Ranger Zachary Sawyer.
Sawyer recently signed up for Drury University’s Badge to Bachelors Program to learn more about law enforcement.
“More so, the administrative side of it, being able to not just have the experience on the street, but some paper experience on that,” said Sawyer.
“We’re honored to be able to serve the families of law enforcement professionals, we hope that in some small way, this will token of our appreciation toward the sacrifices that they make every day,” said Aaron Jones who is with Drury University.
Jones says the university provides scholarships for officers who want to pursue a degree and has recently expanded to include dependents.
“If they’re a family member of a graduate of the Drury law enforcement academy, then they can receive $600 in institutional aid, but when that is combined with other sources of grants and aid, then in many cases that will cover tuition and fees entirely,” said Jones. “Each day that they go to work, they leave family members behind who don’t know if they’ll come back or not. So it is not just an individual sacrifice, our law enforcement families are making a sacrifice and we want to recognize that.”