GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Gallatin Police Department set a goal to keep up with the growing population: add 10 more officer positions to the force in five years.
However, finding the people to fill those spots could be challenging as agencies across the nation struggle to recruit police.
“I’ve been in this line of work in two different states since 1993. This is the worst I’ve ever seen police recruiting,” Captain Bill Vahldiek with the Gallatin Police Department said.
An outside agency recently completed a growth study to determine how many officers Gallatin police should add to keep up with the rising population. The results suggested hiring an additional 10 officers.
This past May, Gallatin police applied for a federal staffing grant which would cover 75% of those 10 additional officers’ salaries for three years.
However, not all of the department’s 93 budgeted positions are filled, so agency leaders have been stepping up recruitment efforts to fill the current vacancies.
Other Middle Tennessee departments are in a similar boat when it comes to recruitment.
According to the Fraternal Order of Police, Metro Nashville is short 137 officers; Murfreesboro has 32 officer openings.
Some departments, including the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, are fully staffed, and others have just one vacancy, like the Mt. Juliet Police Department and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.
The Gallatin Police Department recently made a policy change to allow officers to have facial hair to widen its applicant pool.
“Things that worked for us when we first started are not working anymore as far as recruitment goes, and you have to modernize,” Vahldiek said.
In addition, city councilman Pascal Jouvence told News 2 he may consider presenting an ordinance to add impact fees to new developments to help pay for officer salary raises so the department can become more competitive with surrounding agencies.
“We are dealing not just with us; we’re dealing with different departments around, like Hendersonville and Metro Nashville, who have a lot more purse power than us, so that’s one of our challenges to bring people here,” Jouvence said.
Ultimately, police department leaders believe the public’s perception of the job needs to change in order to recruit the best officers.
“Just like you recognize an airline pilot or a lawyer or an HVAC repair man or a welder as a professional in their particular trade, law enforcement has pretty much been seen as a job,” Vahldiek said. “People are going to have to start realizing that it’s a trade; it takes a lot of training and a lot of continual training to stay where you’re at.”
The Gallatin Police Department is hiring; click here to learn more.