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Good Police Officers Are Hard To Find, And Harder To Keep

By Staff | Sep 2, 2020

Seems it’s harder to find them today than anytime in the past. It’s a hot topic at nearly every local city council meeting. The question is how can small towns find good reliable Police Officers and retain them?

The subject haunts small communities more often than most people realize. With good intentions, local councils advertise and interview for Police Officers more often than any other city employee. While many residents don’t understand the importance of having police coverage 24/7 in the small towns, one just needs to take a look at recent criminal activity in the local arena and you might realize the need.

Recently we have had arrests of people charged with vicious crimes. One in our area was wanted in a larger city for his involvement with the deaths of two individuals in a house fire. Another recent arrest by local authorities removed an alleged felon from the streets, who is charged with delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death.

Criminal activity is on the rise all over the nation. Here we have a chance to better control it, by working together with local law enforcement and making sure they are properly compensated. The pay is to low! That seems to be the largest reason why the turnover is so high in the smaller communities. Even though there is reason to believe enticement from larger law agencies could also be to blame.

It is our belief that in order to employ and retain quality Police Officers, the Mayor, and councilpeople need to make certain they have good prospects and not quickly hire someone just to fill the void.

The first thing is the application process. Pick out good candidates and do thorough background investigations before ever hiring anyone for a position in law enforcement. Law enforcement personell play the most important part in making citizens feel confident in having a safe environment.

As we watch what is happening all over the country, in small communites to large cities, it is hard to understand why. Yet it is also plain to see if you open your eyes that many areas have allowed to much corruption. That seldom happens in small towns and counties, but when it does it becomes even harder to control without quality officers.

It is a fact that proper training, proper benefits, great communication from city officials and support from a good police chief will lead to longer terms of employment. If you want someone to stay in your employment they must be treated fairly. Otherwise you can bet that they won’t last long.

Candidates who live in small towns can often count on their employment becoming a career if they so choose. Why wouldn’t some nice young men not want to work in the community they grew up in and raise their families there while making it a safe environment to reside. It’s not an easy job, but not many are. And where else can a person find employment that allows them to stay close to home, near their families, with security that lasts as long as they want to stay, providing they treat it as a job and do it right.

As an employer the communities need to be patient and single out individuals who are really interested in working for the long term. Those years when towns like Paden City had three officers you could count on, were some of the safest and best years in it’s history. Some argue there wasn’t nearly as much crime, but I believe different. Maybe not as much drugs, but more violence for sure.

With at least nine bars open and drinking age at 18. There was plenty of action. Three police officers with help from the county and state when needed, kept the little town of then nearly 4,000 people safe to walk the streets and leave your doors unlocked.

If it’s possible, city officials should do all they can to get long term committments from prospective officers. It is not cheap to equip, train and employ quality people, but it’s cheaper than high turnover. Small towns can’t compete with counties and states, they just don’t have the funds to do so.

However they can be extra careful when hiring, and get someone willing to learn and perhaps make a career out of it. Never hire on the spur of the moment just because you need someone, that’s the worst mistake a community can make. It happens with regularity, police officers come and go. That can change with incentives, regular hours, benefits, decent pay scales and support.

The idea behind having officers who reside or grew up in the community is to have someone who knows most everyone. Basically, a small town cop is “accountable” in ways that all of the comittees, citizen review boards and community policing initiatives in every big city in the country can’t match. He or she knows you and you know them. That is something which all the training in the world can’t touch. I say to city officials, try hiring hometown people first. If none apply, advertise again until they do. There are a lot of good men that would love to put on the badge and proudly represent our local communities. As a former employer, I have hired and fired many employees, but the best ones I ever had were those who could follow orders, work as directed, and lived near their job. And I always found it important to communicate well with every single one of them. editor@wetzelchronicle.com