Local law enforcement agencies had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic to personnel challenges, but department leaders said they continue to see staffing difficulties even as things begin to normalize.
“Typically getting out and recruiting people and getting people to join is becoming a lot more complicated. Like anything else, recruiting people is a problem across the country,” said Cmdr. Eric Protzman with the St. Joseph Police Department. I know highway patrols experienced it, Kansas City police department is experiencing it, a lot of agencies around.”
Complicating staffing issues, burglary, robbery and mandatory reporting crimes are on an upward trend since COVID-19 cases have declined locally.
“People are getting back out to the workforce, they’re gone more, kids are in school all day. We’re starting to see some of those crimes pick up,” Protzman said. “We are starting to see an increase in calls. We saw a significant decrease in calls [in 2020]. Some of that is always concerning when we see a decrease in calls because child abuse and domestics went down during that period. And we don’t think they actually went down, they just weren’t reported.”
Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said while calls may be increasing, staffing is not improving anywhere.
“Staffing is extremely difficult right now, finding applicants and ones that you can get through the process that want to be in law enforcement right now has been very challenging because of national rhetoric and some of the issues,” Puett said. “They’re not wanting to get into law enforcement or stay in law enforcement.”
Officials are hopeful that declining COVID-19 cases and more community events may give the departments the opportunity to reach more people for recruiting.
“We recruit online on our Facebook page and lots of things have been electronic since COVID,” Puett said. “I think some of the hiring fairs will open back up and this will kind of move forward, but none of that is in place.”
Both Protzman and Puett said they are going to be recruiting for positions. The hope is to find people who want to stay with the departments long-term.