Posted by Colby Rogers
Chesterfield County's police academy graduated another 19 officers to the force Friday.
That lowers the department's vacancy to 34 open spots. Last January, there were 80 open slots. The police department says it hopes to fill the remaining positions by next January.
If that happens it will be the first time the department has been fully staffed in years.
Shawn Welbeck is one of 19 men and women who are the newest members of the Chesterfield Police Dept.
"It's something I've been waiting 6 years to do," Welbeck said. "I served in the military to get ready for this and it's something I'm prepared for."
Officer Elliot Anderson hopes to fill the last spots in the next academy class that will start in June.
"It means we will have more officers available to respond to calls for service," Anderson said. "It will keep our response times down. It will allow us to continue to serve those traveling through the area."
But Anderson says the police department can't let up on recruitment just yet."
"It would be great, but we are mindful we still have a long process to go and we still have to diligent in our recruitment process," Anderson said.
In 2008 the department decided to start recruiting out-of-state and in highly public places, such as Chesterfield Towne Center. This year it also plans to focus on recruiting women.
"We believe having a diverse police department only benefits the public as well as our agency," Anderson said, "so we feel it's time we do a push to let the women know that we are aware the jobs are available."
The graduating class Friday contained two women.
The recruitment department will be at Chesterfield Towne Center Saturday taking applications. Officers will be stationed at Guest Services from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.