Getting Answers: police recruitment challenges

Getting Answers: police recruitment challenges
Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) - Many police departments across the country are facing difficulty recruiting police officers. Both the Northampton and Amherst police departments have fewer applicants applying for policing jobs than prior to the pandemic.

“When I came on the job 20, 25 years ago, there were 100s of people for one vacant position. I mean nowadays, we’re lucky enough to have applicants to fill vacant positions we have,” said Northampton Police Chief Jody Casper.

Kasper said there are new challenges in recruiting applicants toward a career in policing.

“The number of qualified applicants that we have are definitely very small and we’re working very hard to bring great recruits to Northampton,” Kasper added.

Not only is Kasper facing a hiring shortage like most employers, her staff was also reduced by five to 60 due to the department getting defunded by 10 percent after calls for police reform following the killing of George Floyd.

“We were defunded in the middle of the pandemic and we had to lay off officers when we were in the middle of the pandemic and we were already short-staffed dealing with pandemic issues,” Kasper explained.

This created new obstacles, Kasper told Western Mass News.

“The outcome of the defunding was not just the loss of the five positions, but it created employment instability for our youngest people,” Kasper noted.

Kasper said new recruits are taking a risk with uncertainty looming whether the department will be defunded again.

While the Northampton’s police department has 58 officers employed, only 50 are patrolling the streets, leaving some officers forced to work a double shift to maintain staffing.

“We have two officers who have been out injured…We have two who are on light-duty status. They have other injuries, so they can’t work the street…and we have four who are currently in a training capacity,” Kasper said.

Over in Amherst, Police Chief Scott Livingstone is facing similar issues. While he is budgeted for 46 officers, he currently only has 41 officers on staff, with four going through training and one open position.

Just how many applicants did he have for those four positions?

“I think we only had for this most recently recruit process, 30 applicants for four positions,” Livingstone said.

The number of applications his department receives for such positions has waned from the time Livingstone applied for the patrol officer position 40 years ago.

“There were two openings in the Amherst Police Department. We had 370 applicants for two positions,” Livingstone added.

The four new officers Livingstone hired will not start patrolling right away.

“So, the process of hiring, even if you just have one vacancy, it’s typically a year-long process to get that officer trained,” Livingston noted.

So why aren’t more people seeking a career in law enforcement?

“The profession is being more scrutinized and some people just aren’t willing to go through that in their lives,” Livingstone said.