Law Enforcement faces a recruitment problem

The Bowie Police Department has seen a decrease in applications.

BOWIE, MD (WUSA9) - Many police departments across the country are struggling with recruitment, as the pool of applicants appears to be shrinking. All of this follows a tumultuous couple years, in which police-involved shootings and attacks on law enforcement have been highly covered. 

"It's a drastic drop," said Chief John Nesky, from the Bowie Police Department. "And it's something that we're seeing in different agencies."

Nesky said that Bowie used to expect between 200 and 300 applicants in a single class. This year, he said the number of applicants dropped to less than 100.

"This is a national trend," he said. "That we're seeing all throughout the law enforcement profession."

Bill Johnson, the executive director for the National Association of Police Organizations, said statistics on the number of applicants are hard to come by since there are so many departments nationwide. However he said anecdotally, they are increasingly hearing concerns from chiefs. Johnson said two factors for the decrease are "increasing dangers," and the "perception that elected leaders are not supportive.

"Qualified people think they don't need the hassle," he said. 

The last half-decade has seen a rising attention toward police-involved shootings. This had a fever pitch with the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Shortly after that second shooting, civil unrest erupted in the community.

There have also been numerous attacks nationwide that have targeted officers, including the killing of two New York City officers in 2014, three Baton Rouge officers in 2016, and five Dallas officers in 2016.

"We take some of the more isolated incidents," said Nesky. "And it gets brushed over with a gigantic paint brush over all of Law Enforcement. Not just what happened in one specific area or one specific incident. It kind of tarnishes the entire profession."

Anthony Imperiale, is one of the new recruits for the department, who started his training in January. He said he's optimistic this trend can be turned around.

"It's always darkest before the dawn," he said. "So, we're at our dark times now. And I know we're going to get a lot better with the community. And I believe more people will apply. I think they will."

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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