Attracting people to jobs in law enforcement is more than just a local struggle, there’s a shortage of officers nationwide.
In light of National Police Week, we spoke with the San Luis Obispo Police Department about its recruitment process and the impacts of low staffing.
On Thursday and Friday, SLOPD department leaders will be spending time giving oral interviews to new candidates for cadet positions, but once they’re hired, it can take over a year before they’re out on patrol alone.
San Luis Obispo Police Sergeant Trevor Shalhoob knew he wanted to get into law enforcement from a young age; as a teen, he went on ride-alongs with a relative.
“I was star struck and just never looked back,” Shalhoob said.
But not everyone is growing up the same way.
“So we’re having to really look at ways to go out and reach youth and try to re-instIll that faith in law enforcement and that drive that makes them want to become a law enforcement officer,” explained Lt. Brian Amoroso of the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
There have been several high-profile police killings in recent years—including a Davis police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty in January.
Local police say hostility towards officers may also be turning people away from the job.
“I’ve been punched in the face, kicked, spit on, bitten, I know there are a lot worse things that could happen but that’s just been my personal experience; we always have to have our heads on a swivel,” Shalhoob said.
SLOPD says the cost of living and the state’s changes in retirement plans are factors in declining recruitment as well.
Additionally, hiring a new officer can be a lengthy process that includes background checks, a six month long academy and six months of field training.
Until more officers successfully make it through the process, SLOPD says it could face staffing shortages.
“So when we’re experiencing staffing shortages like when someone retires or gets hurt on the job, we have to pull some of our specialty units in order to cover patrol which is a core service,” Amoroso said.
While the job may be tough, these officers say it’s definitely worth it.
“You’re gonna have to make sacrifices like working those extra nights and weekends and holidays, maybe stay longer on patrol but the payoff is we work in a beautiful town that has a very supportive community,” Shalhoob said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says California pays the most in the country for police officers, with Mississippi paying the least.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of sworn officers per one thousand residents declined 11% from 1997 to 2016.