BANGOR, Maine — For years, police departments across the country have suffered from staffing and recruitment shortages.
Studies show state and local governments across the country are having more trouble hiring police officers than any other category of personnel.
The U.S. Justice Department reports the average number of full-time police officers in America has dropped 11% since 1997.
The national police staffing shortage has sparked a bidding war among departments and it continues to rev up right here in Maine.
According to the spokesperson of the Bangor Police Department, the shortage may be-- in part-- because of public criticism and, frankly, the way the media covers what they do.
"I think a lot of it has to do with media coverage," says Wade Betters. "Police officers aren't immune to mistakes, but when we make a mistake, it tends to get a lot of air time. Police officers here don't like it when they're trying to make a simple arrest and people start filming the officers and yelling at the officers for trying to make a simple arrest."
The pool of competent police recruits is small in part because it's quite a process to become a police officer. One must undergo a physical fitness test, a background check, a polygraph test, a psychological exam, and then on top of that, you must make it through the criminal justice academy.
The spokesperson for the Bangor police department says the competition among departments to obtain capable recruits will inevitably lead to changes on the national scale.
"I think in time you'll see across the country, not just the state of Maine, a general push to increase a benefits package and wages for officers and first responders in general. We're talking about people that we demand the best out of just to get hired. These are the people who run towards the gunfire and run towards the crisis. I think the younger generations are starting to figure out that what's demanded of you versus the level of compensation is not quite what they're focused on."
Despite the difficulties of the job, departments are urging young and capable men and women to apply and serve their communities. There are openings across the state right now.
If people are interested in becoming an officer, they can contact their local department for more information.