For the second time in two years, the Fairmont Police Department is hiring new officers.

These are good jobs with great benefits for career positions that keep getting more and more difficult to fill in every law enforcement agency in the U.S.

According to a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum, law enforcement agencies face what’s described as a triple threat when it comes to filling vacancies.

Police departments around the country are getting fewer applicants, while experiencing an uptick in internal resignations all the while facing a looming retirement bubble from older officers who have made a career of policing.

Research by the federal government also offers more insight into the challenge police departments face.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of full-time sworn officers in U.S. law enforcement agencies declined by more than 3 % between 2013 and 2016. The number of officers per capita is down 10 % since 1997.

A separate study by PERF found that, in 2019, 63% of police agencies in the U.S. experienced a decrease in officer candidate applications. In the past six years, there has been a more than 41% decrease.

Serving as a police officer is a noble profession, a pillar of any community.

The Fairmont City Council has worked with the police department in the past two years to make first-year officer positions more attractive to young men and women who may want a career protecting and serving their community.

The benefit package for a newly-hired Fairmont police officer has a starting salary of $39,998 with a salary of $46,383 after the officer successfully completes his or her one-year probationary period, which is standard for new hires. And beginning July 12 this year, the base pay for new officers will increase to $41,398.

Other benefits include two weeks of vacation for the officer after the first year, 12–14 paid holidays per year and six personal days each year after the completion of the probationary period. Each officer is also offered PEIA health insurance through the state.

That’s extremely good pay considering the position does not require officers to have college degrees.

We applaud the city for increasing the pay and benefits for police officers, but perhaps there is much more the department can do to retain officers and find new ones as well.

According to the PERF study titled “The Workforce Crisis, and What Police Agencies Are Doing About It,” published in September 2019, change must begin within each police agency.

The second-highest recommendation in PERF’s study says police departments need to build trust in their communities in the aftermath of what seems like hundreds of highly-publicized police shootings that have eroded the public trust universally.

The report also recommends streamlining the hiring process, offering continuous training in such tactics as de-escalation, and offering technology training to meet the demands for combatting such ills as cybercrimes and other 21st century challenges.

Locally, the Fairmont Pastoral Alliance for Social and Racial Justice has been meeting with Police Chief Steve Shine, which, according to the PERF report, is a good way to conduct hiring outreach in minority communities.

But, we support the use of other proactive, public strategies, such as “Coffee With A Cop,” taking part in local health fairs, and having officers give presentations to middle and high school students as means of building public trust and elevating interest in policing as a career option.

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