A drop in the number of people looking to become police officers and deputies is a big dilemma, and increased public scrutiny and negative media portrayals of members of law enforcement is a contributing factor in that downturn, according to outgoing Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder.
“There are fewer people in line trying to get our jobs, that is the biggest challenge we have in law enforcement today,” Snyder said in a Dec. 10 interview.
Snyder will end his more than three-decades-long career in law enforcement Monday after serving one term as sheriff and 25 years as a deputy in Chaves County. He was defeated in his bid for a second term by Mike Herrington in the June Republican primary.
The county used to have large pools of applicants, with as many as 40 people applying for a single opening, but now they are lucky if they get 12 people for an opening.
Snyder said the sheriff’s office now has six openings. A group of nine applicants were recently put through physical testing for those positions and will soon take the written test and be interviewed.
“Of the nine, we might make a conditional job offer to maybe four of those, we’ll see, that is just what the odds run,” Snyder said.
The same recruitment quandary is being experienced across the nation.
The Police Executive Research Forum — a Washington-based law enforcement think tank — recently surveyed 400 police departments, and found that 66 percent of departments reported a decrease in the number of applicants, according to a Dec. 8 Washington Post story.
Snyder said that a stronger economy and better paying jobs in other fields, as well as the risks that come with the job, also have contributed to the decline in applicants, but how law enforcement is portrayed in the media and popular culture has also been a big factor.
“Well, I think we really get a bad rap on a lot of things, and that has hurt our recruitment all across the country,” he said.
“We really get a bad rap about just being criminals and thugs and we just shoot people because we want to and that is just not the case, not the case at all,” he continued.
Most people in law enforcement are good and just trying to do a tough job, and the misdeeds of a very small minority often give the whole profession a bad name.
“We train our deputies that you need to go home at the end of the day. That you need to be able to handle all these situations, and it is an ugly thing to use force on someone, but our deputies have extensive training in making those decisions,” Snyder said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.