Law enforcement recruiting sluggish amid tensions

Posted at 11:08 PM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 00:12:56-04

With tensions mounting across the country over law enforcement and its protocols, the recruitment climate for local agencies are edging on dismal.

Earlier this week, the Dallas police chief urged demonstrators to put down their protest signs and fill out an application and apply to become an officer. That recommendation has yet to see its implications but in the meantime, some Omaha-area law enforcement agencies are struggling to find officers.

“I've always loved the job, and the people I work with,” said Officer Dennis Sexton.

Sexton has been on the force for 12-and-a-half years as an Omaha police officer and is part of the Omaha Police Officer’s Association. Sexton says he has a passion for serving the community but admits that passion is wearing off.

“We're slowly reaching a point where so much of the incentive has been taken out of wanting to come and do this job,” said Sexton.

Sexton said during his years as an officer, he’s never seen the public pulse against police as it is now.

“The negative noise has just caught fire, it's been pretty relentless,” said Sexton.

That perception may have taken a toll on law enforcement recruiting numbers too.

“We have seen a decline,” said Douglas County Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler. While he can’t pin-point why numbers have decreased, it’s concerning, “It's a challenge that we are trying to tackle.”

Wheeler said they are trying to recruit more women and minorities to represent the community, even handing out letters to local churches to recruit.

“We will go out to black churches, we will go out to women's groups,” said Wheeler.

In Bellevue it’s pretty much the same story.

“I have seen a decline in candidates,” said Bellevue Public Information Officer Laurie Synowiecki.

Synowiecki said the increasing demands of the job, public perception and the many hats they wear could be a factor.

“It's a very difficult time right now in the law-enforcement profession,” said Synowiecki.

Not helping the recruiting process are the tragic scenes like Dallas. Sexton said it’s a hard sell to be in law enforcement, “If people are on the fence, it's a hard argument to make these day-it truly is.”

Even Sexton’s family is concerned for his safety as the tensions between police and some community members escalate, “I've never had my wife come and tell me she's scared before and she did this last week.”

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