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‘We need people’: Central Indiana law enforcement agencies face recruitment, staffing challenges

Police Recruiting
Posted at 3:41 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-08 23:45:28-04

Staffing and recruiting are issues felt across a variety of industries, and the law enforcement community is no exception. Both big and small departments are experiencing similar struggles.

“I would guess there’s only a handful of departments who could say they’re fully staffed,” Chief Douglas Stout with the Kokomo Police Department said.

He says the last two years have complicated the situation. From the pandemic and retirements to ‘the Great Resignation’ and civil unrest, many officers are questioning their career choice. This on top of the fact that policing can be an incredibly dangerous job.

“Listen — everybody wants the change. Who’s going to do it? Somebody has to be present to do the change,” IMPD recruitment officer Charles Parker said.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Earnest Paige added: “Across the state, across the united states period just getting employment for any position especially employment is a difficult task.”

‘Being understaffed has created a lot of issues over the years’

Finding and recruiting people in general is not easy, and understaffed departments can create a variety of issues — not just for officers, but also the communities they serve.

“Whether it’s through delayed response times or because you’re low on manpower. Officers are feeling burned out because they’re running from call to call,” Stout said.

IMPD recruitment officer Molly McAfee added, “Getting days off is really hard for patrol. Moving around the department — usually there’s a lot of movement and promotions, but you can’t fill a slot until you have someone to backfill.”

Kokomo Police Chief Stout said his department should be staffed around 100 officers. As of the end of April, the department was staffed with 88 officers. Stout said by the end of May, the department should be up to 91 sworn officers.

Since the beginning of 2020, 13 officers have retired, according to Stout, and by the end of 2024 at least four more officers are expected to retire.

KPD Chief Douglas Stout

Kokomo Officer Matthew Howard joined the department a year ago this month.

“I got hired almost a year ago. My badge number is 439 and we just hired 450. So we’ve hired quite a few and it’s unheard of in this department to have that many people under you without having a year on,” Howard said.

The IMPD recruiting office said it is busier than ever. Right now, the department is 204 officers short. Fully staffed, IMPD would have 1,843 sworn officers which includes some hired with American Rescue Plan Act funding.

PREVIOUS | IMPD facing challenges to recruit 169 new officers

In 2021, 139 officers left IMPD – 75 retired, 23 resigned and the others included terminations, death (not line of duty) and recruit officers.

Even with the gap, the calls do not stop. For nearly five years, Officer Caleb Tatlock has patrolled with IMPD’s Northwest District. The last two years in particular, he said, was trying on the profession.

“The ‘why’ is different for everybody but probably the most important thing, most important question a cop can ask him or herself is why do I do this? For me I felt this immense need to do something that mattered,” Tatlock said.

For ISP in 2021, 72 troopers either retired or resigned. Currently, the agency has 1,150 troopers across the state. It is allotted to have up to 1,285 troopers.

“I can speak that for any law enforcement agency we’re not going to sacrifice any jobs or services due to lack of manpower in those areas. If that means personally working longer areas to keep families in the communities safe, that’s what we will do," Paige said.

From job fairs to social media campaigns, Paige said ISP is always looking for new people to join.

Paige noted several things like a $5,000 one time bonus for those who complete the academy and FTO, coverage of vehicle maintenance costs and equipment allowances for helping the agency stand apart.

“The Indiana State Police is a place you can go down a lot of different career paths and make a lot of impact on a lot of different people’s lives," Paige said.

‘We need people’

Starting in 2020, Kokomo Police dedicated a patrol officer strictly to recruiting. The same year, the department aired a commercial in the South bend and Indianapolis TV markets as a recruitment tool.

PREVIOUS | Kokomo Police Department looking to hire two dozen new officers

Chief Stout acknowledges the support from the city’s administration in helping build back the force. He added since Mayor Tyler Moore took office and he became chief, the department has hired 33 officers since January of 2020. When both moved into their current positions, Kokomo Police had 76 officers.

Officers are also seeing a 20% raise over three years that started in 2021.

“The department is doing everything in their power to make sure we have the right amount of police on our streets, to keep the community safe,” Kokomo Police Officer Howard said.

WRTV Reporter Nikki DeMentri is speaking with Kokomo Police Officer Matthew Howard.

IMPD recruitment unit officers Molly McAfee’s and Charles Parker’s calendar is packed with job fairs, community events and school visits. The call out is both in person and online through advertising on social media.

“We need people. We want more people to protect and serve, but we also need to paint a positive picture to become a police officer,” McAfee said.

Recruiting takes time, and so does becoming an officer.

IMPD Recruitment Unit

“As a police officer, it’s always been challenging to find people to do this job,” Parker said.

IMPD’s 24th recruit class had 614 applicants in August of 2021. From there, 286 tested and 36 became recruit officers who went on to the academy.

In 2021, 1,406 people applied for ISP recruitment classes. After either dropping out, missing deadlines or going through rigorous testing and evaluations including several physical abilities tests, written and oral exams and a superintendent review — 29 of those applicants became troopers.

On average it takes 6-12 months to go from recruitment to becoming an officer.

“We are the individuals seeking the change. I’m from the community. I grew up in Indianapolis,” Parker said.

That is why agencies are asking for the community’s help.

“The more people that we can recruit that are good hearted, critical thinking officers are the more people that are going to protect you,” McAfee said.

Challenges or not, these officers want the communities they serve, whether that be Kokomo or Indianapolis — to know, they are here for them.

“It’s not for making the most money or having people wave and smile at you. Other jobs can probably provide that better,” Tatlock said. He continued, “But no other job can do what policing does which is people on their worst day call you and you have the opportunity to help them and that is priceless.”

WRTV report Nikki DeMentri and WRTV photographer Dave Franklin ride-along with IMPD Officer Caleb Tatlock.

To find out more about IMPD recruitment, click here. To find out more about Kokomo Police recruitment, click here.

You can also learn more about how to apply for open positions within Indiana State Police by visiting their website.