Recruitment and retention of police officers challenging in current climate

Published: Sep. 21, 2016 at 9:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2016 at 9:57 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - How do deadly police shootings like the ones in Charlotte and Tulsa affect police recruiting? Local and national agencies have seen a dip in the recruitment and retention of officers.

Chesterfield Police have plenty of cruisers but say it's always a challenge to find officers to drive them. Some of those obstacles include competition of other agencies, fewer applicants and fall out from national police shootings, just to name a few.

Whether it's videos, billboards or even signs – area police are looking for a few good men and women.

"We just have to talk to them and let them know it's still a noble profession," explains Corporal Juana Butler, a 17-and-a-half-year veteran with the force.

But with everything going on in the world, including two deadly police shootings within days of each other, that can be a challenge.

"Some of the challenges to being a police officer, especially today, it's not a very popular field to get a job in. I just try to tell them to look at the big picture," she says.

Right now, Chesterfield has its 67th class going through the academy with just 14 recruits. These would-be officers are put through the paces in the classroom and out in the field.

The department says applications are about 18 percent lower than previous academies.

The county isn't alone - a Virginia State Police spokeswoman tells NBC12 its applications have dropped nearly 48 percent. While that's attributed to a number of different factors, she says today's current climate has impacted those numbers.

Corporal Butler agrees but says it makes her more determined to spread her message, especially in the African-American communities that are traditionally less trusting of the police.

"I will say there is a barrier, and when I go to different places like historically-black colleges or community events, I always talk to them about that. You need to make the difference. If you don't see somebody that looks like you, how about you apply and go through the process so that other people can see you in uniform and want to be just like you," says Butler.

One of the things Chesterfield and several local agencies do to help combat these lower recruitment numbers is run back-to-back academies.

Chesterfield is looking for new recruits. Testing for that new class is at the end of next month.

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