NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It's a problem all across the country --- recruiting qualified people to join their local police department.
In Metro-Nashville, the department is budgeted for 1,152 officers. According to the Fraternal Order of Police, there are 185 current openings.
On August 29th, 41 officer trainees, belonging to Session 87, will graduate from the police academy. Graduates will then spend the next five to six months riding in a patrol car with field training officers.
Police captain Keith Stephens has been with the department since 2002. As the Director of Training, he acknowledges it's difficult for some trainees to complete the 24-week academy for various of reasons. He said other challenges the department faces include keeping up with Nashville's growth and paying officers more.
"It's a profession that you can help people, it's a job where every single day you can make a difference. I will 100 percent say the pay does need to be higher to get people to come here and do this profession because it is very challenging and with the city growing like it is and course the price of living in Nashville has gone up over the last 10 to 15 years. We would love to have our professional paid what they deserve," Stephens said.
In February 2019, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson released a statement urging public support for police officers and saying "our city needs more police officers."
Stephens said about 70 percent of officer trainees in the academy's Session 88 class were recruited from outside of Tennessee.
"They're from all over literally the world. Currently, we have four that are born from out of this country. We're about 70 percent from outside of Tennessee," he said.
Fraternal Order of Police president James Smallwood said the challenges of recruiting police officers is a problem across the country.
"We have 185 police officer 2 vacancies. So there are 185 fewer officers answering the streets than we are allocated for in our budget. The reality is even if we have all 1,511 officers that we're budgeted for we don't have enough to do the job that we're being asked to do. So yea, we'd like to see that full and we'd like to see that number grow," he said.
Smallwood said sometimes recruits will make a decision where to move to based on several factors including cost of living, pay, location, and morale.
"Memphis has 2,400 officers and we're larger than them in geographical area and in population and we're at 1510. So we're at minimum 900 officers short. And Memphis doesn't have anywhere near the special events that we do, they don't have anywhere near the demand we do as far as the calls of service goes," Smallwood said.
Despite a starting salary of earning about $42,000, new trainees look to complete the police academy and making a difference in their community.
Officer trainee James Wells of Chicago said he moved to Nashville because his wife is from here. He wanted to become an officer to help children and teens.
"I love people, I love serving youth which is the reason why I chose to do this job as well. Growing up I just always wanted to make a difference and being an officer it gives me direct access to making a difference," Wells said.
You can find out more about starting a career with the Metro Nashville Police Department at www.joinmnpd.com.