NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – COVID-19. Social Justice.
Those are just some of the issues confronting law enforcement the last few years, prompting some officers to retire, and keeping candidates from applying.
News 2 reached out to a handful of agencies on Wednesday, asking about their staffing situations.
Ashland City police say they are authorized for 20 officers and they have no openings.
On the other hand, Hendersonville police say the police department is down seven officers and is interviewing candidates next week.
Mt. Juliet police report no vacancies at this time, having filled three spots last week.
Nolensville police tell News 2 all 16 positions are currently filled.
Columbia police say the department is authorized for 91 officers and currently has 84 officers on the force.
Brentwood police is authorized for 67 officers and is currently down four. Police Chief Richard Hickey tells News 2 three candidates are currently in background checks and could start within the month.
“The challenge is it can take almost a year to get a new officer trained and through the police academy, so it takes a long time before we can utilize a new officer on the streets,” Chief Hickey said.
The starting pay for a Brentwood police officer is $47,200.
Franklin police is authorized for 132 positions and they are not currently hiring, while Millersville has 16 full time officers and no current openings. The same goes for Belle Meade, which employs 15 officers.
The Metro Nashville Police Department is the biggest police department in Middle Tennessee, authorized for 1,558 officers. The department is currently at 1,384 officers, but officials say there are 65 currently in the training pipeline.
Metro police has a flashy promotional website that promotes good pay, good health care and many other career opportunities.
A Public Information officer told News 2 the department is always looking for qualified candidates and promoting progressive policies:
- Attending a wide variety of job fairs and colleges, including HBCUs, to attract a diverse pool of applicants.
- Chief Drake committed to the 30×30 initiative to have 30 percent women by 2030.
- Roll call training so that all officers are recruiters.
- Advertising campaigns to attract officers from other jurisdictions (laterals)
- Advertising campaign inside Bridgestone and on Lower Broadway to attract applicants visiting the city.
Metro police’s training department has made changed to physically agility testing and stress testing. Lacation rooms have also been added for officers who are new mothers. The department also has the ability to for female officers to pump breast milk while on duty.
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is authorized for 454 positions and is currently down 127 corrections officers. This job starts at $41,767.
Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford told News 2 his agency is down six road deputies.
Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said his operation is down two patrol deputies and 17 corrections officers in the jail, not to mention three dispatchers.
In Lawrence County, Sheriff John Myers is down four deputies and 13 corrections officers.
“We are down on manpower across the board. We are a 365-day a year, 7-day a week operation. When we are short on manpower, it causes serious safety issues,” Myers said.
Myers says starting pay for deputies in the low 30’s and high stress make hiring new candidates difficult.
“32-thousand? How do you live on that? With fuel and inflation and all up, it is like going in a hole. It is hard to keep people cause of the pay and retain people and get people to apply,” he said.
Myers says in previous years, he would lose qualified officers to larger departments, like Metro. He says now-a-days, veterans are simply retiring.
“Not so much now. We see veteran deputies leaving. They are just hanging up the gun belt. They say the pay isn’t worth the stress. The pay isn’t worth the job anymore. We don’t do this for the pay. We do it to sleep good at night. And we get something back, and contribute to our community. We don’t do it for the pay, we never have, but you have to be compensated,” he said.
Myers recently spoke to young teenagers and asked if anyone wanted to be a police officer – not a single hand went up.
Lt. Mike Doddo works for the Hickman County Sheriff’s Office and has been a law officer for over 25 years. He says the low pay, the high stress, danger and the shift in negativity against law enforcement officers has changed the profession in a profound way.
“People don’t want to be the cops anymore. They are tired of protecting themselves, tired of seeing law enforcement officers being criminally charged for what they are trained to do. People don’t want liability to be the police anymore. Recruitment numbers are down everywhere, quality of candidate not there anymore. Going to the sheriff’s conferences and hear the same issues. We can’t find quality applicants we can trust to protect the citizens,” Doddo said.
Like Lawrence County, road deputies in Hickman County start at around $32,000. Corrections officers make even less.
“It’s hard to raise a family on that. We have guys working many years here who have to work 3-4 jobs to support families. I can’t blame someone not wanting to work for nothing. Law enforcement is a necessary evil. We need order and discipline or we will have anarchy. The woke culture is destroying society as we know it today,” Doddo said.
When asked how he would sell the Hickman County Sheriff’s Department like Metro police promotes its department, Doddo laughed.
“You don’t sell it. You can’t. The negativity of the job is in media constantly. You have to want to do this. You won’t make money. You are constantly second guessed and questioned. There’s no sales pitch for it. You have to want to do it. You need strength to do this job,” he said.
Doddo says his fellow officers he talks to in Florida, California and Georgia feel the same way.
When asked if he would go into law enforcement now, based on current events, Doddo laughed and said quickly, “Absolutely not.”
Though he says his career has been satisfying and fulfilling, he says he would definitely not push his children to go into law enforcement because it is too dangerous and the pay is too low.