PLAINFIELD, Ind. – Attracting qualified candidates to join law enforcement is not only a statewide issue, but a national one. That's according to instructors at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, who said it’s likely towns, cities, and sheriff departments across the state need more than a hundred additional people combined.
According to a master instructor, Capt. David Younce, police departments were getting extra funding to help fully staff their forces, but that changed after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It’s a problem that exists nationwide," said Younce.
The academy is roughly half way through a 15-week program to get roughly 150 officers basic training. The time consists of classroom work and hands-on training.
“Our goal is to give them the mindset and skills to stay alive," Younce said.
While the academy doesn't have a say in recruiting for Indiana communities, it does help attract recruits by posting openings. Currently, there are 23 difference agencies listed on the academy's website.
The academy also stays close to happenings regarding criminal justice and trends impacting the industry.
Younce said agencies are losing their veteran officers and it takes a long time to find replacements, which helps cause the shortage.
He couldn't say how the shortage affected safety, but added many places put officers on 12-hour shifts, which is just one reason an officer might look to change careers or retire.
“Ambush situations, body cameras, laptops in cars and technology, some of them may develop a mindset of, 'why am I doing this,'" Younce said.
The instructor said more agencies are offering retirement packages at younger ages, with many places now offering deals when an officer turns 55 or 50. Before, it was common to offer retirement packages once someone turned 60.
Often, one town or city will hire an officer from another force, which isn't addressing the overall state shortage, but only shifts the issue somewhere else.
It's something that has become more of an occurrence with younger people training to wear the badge.
“It’s not uncommon, they may be at an agency for four or five years, and they say, 'oh this agency 30 miles away has a better salary, a better benefit package, more time off, and more time with their family,' that’s a great quality to have," said Younce. "So, it’s tough for these agencies who bring these young people in and then move on to someplace else.”
Of the basics at the academy right now, there are five from both Plainfield and Franklin. Younce said several other Indiana towns have at least three people going through the program.
A spokesperson at those two central Indiana communities each said they still have more positions to fill. They said it can take an entire year, from going through tests, background checks, training at the academy, and more training back with their police force, before finally working on their own.