ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Recruiting is a nationwide problem in multiple police departments, including those in Central PA, who are seeing significant drops in applicants.
Altoona Police Department said that they would receive nearly 70 applicants five years ago. Now, they are seeing almost a quarter of that amount of applicants. These startling statistics caught the attention of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who spoke in Altoona Tuesday afternoon about the issue.
He is now asking state legislators to fund $30 million to local police departments. That funding will hopefully help with the recruiting but also maintain officers.
Shapiro said that if the crisis is not taken care of soon, the problem can escalate even more.
“I’ve been to some departments where they’re competing against one another because they simply get the necessary resources to pay those officers,” Shapiro said.
Before the press conference, city officials met with Shapiro to brainstorm ideas about resolving this crisis. The ideas included providing benefits to the employees, paid training, student loan forgiveness, and possibly a local police training facility. Shapiro said that the $30 million would be used to fund those types of resources.
“Those are the kinds of things that I think are necessary right,” Shapiro said. “And I just want to renew my call to lawmakers in this region that it’s time to invest in local policing.”
Local police chiefs say that the new training facility could potentially eliminate the costs of sending cadets far away to be fully trained, but they know that their primary duty is to make communities safer and be available for everyone.
“Everyone wants a fully staffed police department. It doesn’t matter what municipality you are,” Altoona Police Chief Joe Merrill said. The more staffing levels we have, the more we can be out in the community doing typical non-enforcement proactive details.”
“We have to make sure we’re making proactive efforts now,” Logan Township Police Chief David Reese said. “We’re very appreciative that the Attorney General has taken an interest in this, and it’s very proactive, and it’s going to help us long term.”
Shapiro said that the timeline on when these ideas could occur is dependent on when the lawmakers will allow the funding to go through.
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