Local law enforcement struggling to recruit and retain staff

From left, Highway Patrol Lt. Mark Ott, St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally, Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett and Buchanan County Prosecutor Ron Holliday, discussed challenges their departments are facing at the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Citizens Crime Advisory Committee meeting Monday.

Staffing challenges topped the agenda Monday for the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Citizens Crime Advisory Committee.

Officials from the St. Joseph Police Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol shared their departments’ struggles to recruit and retain staff.

“Not only do we have issues of retaining quality, once we lose someone (there’s) the difficulties of replacing that experience and getting them equipped and ready to function,” Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said.

Puett said his department is down 25% in staffing and he has had trouble finding suitable quality applicants.

Chief Chris Connally of the St. Joseph Police Department said he has seen similar issues.

“Every midsize and large agency in Missouri and across the nation is struggling to get people. I was at a meeting last month and they talked about a survey. And in the survey, people aged 25 to 35, only 50% of them thought that policing was an honorable profession, age 25 to 35, 57% perceived as an honorable profession,” Connally said. “That’s our main area where we need to recruit. So yeah, we’ve been hit really hard with some of the publicity and people not seeing the better side of it.”

Puett said his department is working with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the St. Joseph Police Department to share the workload when available.

Committee members said they want to find new ways to engage with the community to help improve the view of law enforcement. They talked about upcoming events that could help.

“We are gearing up for our youth camp as well as the teen academy, so those will be held in July. We’re getting prepared for those,” Connally said.

In addition, there will be a couple of nights this summer when officers will meet with crime watch groups, Connally said.

Also at the meeting, Buchanan County Prosecutor Ron Holliday shared an issue his office has been facing with wait times on mental health evaluations for those in the court system.

While in the past an evaluation was triggered usually within days of a judge’s order, now those people are being evaluated anywhere from 6 to 12 months later due to the state’s mental health department being backlogged, he said.

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Maykayla Hancock can be reached at makayla.hancock@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @NPNowHancock.

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