Dallas Police Chief David Brown called for action Monday, saying, “Become a part of the solution. Serve your communities. Don't be a part of the problem. We're hiring. We're hiring. Get off that protest line and get an application in."
The protest line seems to be much longer than the employment line for law enforcement in Kansas City.
Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri Highway Patrol and Liberty Police Department all report applications for positions are much lower than in the past.
“Probably about 20 years ago when I first joined there was probably about 5,000 applicants,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe. “Now you’re talking about 2,000 to 1,500 applicants.”
“It was 100 applicants when I got hired in for one position back in 1990,” said Liberty Police Department Capt. Andy Hedrick. “Sometimes we’ll advertise for one or two positions and we may end up getting 30 applicants. Of those not all 30 are qualified.”
Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kelli Bailiff says there isn’t one smoking gun reason for the drop.
“I think some of it does stem from a lot of things that’s been going on lately in this last few years,” said Bailiff. “Some of the younger people are maybe confused, maybe even frightened about what could happen to them because some officers have been charged with some crimes.”
“There is a large amount of scrutiny that goes on with this law enforcement profession, and not everybody wants to sign up for that," said Hedrick.
“Naturally the pay is going to be the top priority,” said Lowe. “You’re not going to be a millionaire working for any state agency.”
Lowe says Missouri Highway Patrol does have to turn away some otherwise qualified applicants for a variety of factors, including visible tattoos or prescription drug use.
Hiring but not hurting
The Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office reports 13 openings. Recruiting tools include job fairs, going into schools, hosting tours and asking the community to identify potential candidates.
“We want our own community members to go out and seek out some wonderful people that they feel would be an asset within our own community,” said Bailiff.
Both Missouri Highway Patrol and Liberty Police Department say they are fully staffed.
“When I put on my uniform every day and some of the things that I achieve, I’m excited to come to work every single day. I love it,” said Bailiff.
“The reward is through helping those that need help,” said Lowe. “They want to fulfill a duty to their country and their state and they want to help people.”
“There’s value in it,” said Hedrick. “You have to want to do it for the right reasons. There has to be something within you.”
Brian Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.