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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Law Enforcement Agencies See Decline In Applications

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are having a hard time finding people to fill their open positions.

The number of people applying for jobs in law enforcement has been on the decline for the past five years, and it’s no different in North Carolina.

The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is looking for more than 40 detention service officers and more than 20 sworn deputy sheriffs.

Detention officers maintain and operate jails in Greensboro and High Point, while deputy sheriffs patrol various parts of the county.

Despite the vacancies, the sheriff’s office is still able to function, but officials say they would rather not have to rely on overtime to meet their needs.

The state of the economy has a major impact on how hard it can be to fill job openings.

“If the market’s really good, government jobs are hard to fill because if the private sector is doing well in hiring, they may offer better benefits and higher salaries where government is fixed,” GCSO Lieutenant Tommy Sluder said.

Low Starting Pay

Salary plays a big part in why some choose not to apply for a job in law enforcement. The starting salary at the GCSO for a person with a high school diploma is $36, 731. The salary increases depending on education, military service, prior detention officer experience, and foreign language skills.

And the GCSO still has to compete with other law enforcement agencies.

“We’re not getting people that want to work for the sheriff’s office because of salary,” Sluder said. “Greensboro [Police Department] pays higher, High Point [Police Department] sounds higher, other sheriff’s offices [pay] higher. So they can finish basic law enforcement training and go to an agency making more money.”

Media Perception

These law enforcement recruitment challenges aren’t unique to Guilford County or the rest of the state.

According to Chief Operating Officer of the Police Executive Research Forum, Kevin Morison, hundreds of law enforcement agencies are dealing with less people applying for positions.

The Police Executive Research Forum is an independent research organization that focuses on policing issues. In a recent workforce survey, they found 35% of law enforcement agencies across the country have seen a significant decrease in the number of people applying for full-time sworn positions.

Morison said the decline can be attributed to the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri riots.

“These days so many police actions captured on cell phone video goes viral,” he said. “A lot of people perhaps considering a career in policing look at that and say, ‘Boy do I want a job that’s so closely criticized that what I do today might end up on the 6 o’clock news tonight.’”

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