WORTHINGTON, Ohio — Hiring is a problem police departments are seeing across our nation, and local law enforcement agencies say it’s also affecting communities.
In addition to shortages faced by the City of Columbus, city agencies including ones from Worthington, Grove City and Gahanna say they are also feeling the need for more applicants.
“If we are short staffed, we're not in your neighborhood as much when you're asleep as we would like to be or as much as you would like us to be,” says Worthington Police Chief Robert Ware.
Ware said his department is one of many needing to hire more officers. They currently have 28 officers on staff, but need to fill four more, which is a significant number for the smaller staff.
Ware said generations post 9/11 need a greater understanding of the impact these positions are making. Their team is committed to building stronger relationships with the community to serve and protect.
“The more we interact with the community, the more they know us, the more they'll trust us,” Ware said.
According to Ware, trust and empathy come from recruiting new officers within their own communities who are interested in building those relationships, especially since the recent national and even local events between officers and the communities they serve.
“There are thousands and thousands of interactions everyday that make a difference in the lives of people and those get overshadowed sometimes,” Ware said.
Detective Steven Luoma has been serving in Worthington for over five years. Luoma said he loves meeting new people and helping the community daily, but understaffing means working more hours, and the forces could use more bodies to help. He said the more hours can weigh on their mental and physical state.
“It can definitely cause an issue if you don't have enough manpower,” Luoma said. “You can't get to calls as quickly. Having those extra bodies definitely helps.”
"We want those folks who are willing to accept the challenge of being guardians more and enforcers less,” says Ware.
Worthington police are also hosting a recruitment event Oct. 2.
In Gahanna, police are also trying to hire “guardians” as older officers retire.
“We’re very much looking for people with a guardian mindset,” said Gahanna Police Chief Jeff Spence. “In policing we used to have 300 applicants that would get into our hiring process. Now we’re lucky if we have 50 or 60."
Gahanna, like others, is a smaller department and even a handful of openings weighs on the entire force. Right now they have two positions they are actively recruiting for and three 911 dispatchers, with more people retiring next year.
“It's very difficult to fill those positions right now. Not only our police officers but also our communications technicians, those that answer 911, another very difficult job to fill right now,” Spence said.
Chief Spence said the entire hiring process can take about a year and a half, and they are looking for quality candidates and hoping to attract more with a new facility in the coming years.
“It's going to be a great recruiting tool for us. It's going to be a great facility to help us address the needs of the community and frankly for our officers as well.”
New Albany Police say they are actively recruiting, but have been able to fill needed positions so far.
In a statement, they say:
“The New Albany Police Department has been able to fill its officer needs throughout the last decade. Having said that, we have found that there are fewer applicants to fill open positions. While the profession can be very rewarding and we are pleased with the quality of applications we receive and the officers we hire, it’s no secret that policing has become more challenging and complex over the years.”