YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Finding new police officers is more difficult than ever, and Ohio police departments are stepping up their efforts.
The number of law enforcement employees decreased by 4% between 2020 and 2022, according to The Marshall Project. The drop is attributed to the pandemic, the political climate and a trend of early retirement.
Sarah Shendy, director of the office of law enforcement recruitment at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, says it’s become increasingly hard for the state’s 962 police departments to find new employees.
“They are all telling us that they are hiring because they are losing officers to retirement and maybe to other departments, and sometimes to other careers and professions,” she says.
Many police departments are bringing back a once-common practice of hiring candidates first and then paying for their schooling, Shendy says.
“Because they are so desperate for good, qualified people, they have opened back up the opportunity to get hired first and then go to the police academy,” she says. “That is a huge break because not only are you saving that [average cost of] $7,500, but they also get paid while they are in the police academy at a reduced rate.”
Shendy says there are officers now in municipalities, such as villages and sheriff’s offices, that are still making $12 to $15 an hour, but there are other police departments with starting wages of $35 to $40 an hour.
“It really depends on what department you go to and where you are in the state of Ohio,” she says.
Malik Mostella, community liaison for the Youngstown Police Department and police academy educator at Youngstown State University and Kent State Trumbull, has been with the police department for 23 years and has worked with academy students for three years.
Mostella says his classes average around 20 cadets. He also says students receive a wide range of salaries.
“Here at Youngstown [Police Department] we start out at $49,000, and it goes up to about $64,000 [per year],” he says. “Some departments make more than we do depending on the area.”
The average cost of police academy education is around $8,000, according to Mostella, and programs last about 15 weeks.
Long-term, Mostella says there are several benefits to pursuing a law enforcement career.
“Of course, you build up your seniority, and when you retire there is a pension. For us, we can leave after 25 [years],” he says. “You’re guaranteed a pension at 15 [years], but your full pension kicks in at 25 years if you decide to stay 25.”
Police officers generally work eight-hour shifts five days a week, and there are ample opportunities for overtime.
“If this truly is what you want to do and if you’re dedicated to staying in this field, then get into the academy,” he says. “Make the sacrifice of being able to study and doing everything you need to do. Once you do, we’ll be waiting for you.”
For information on law enforcement careers, go to www.nationaltestingnetwork.com/publicsafetyjobs/search.cfm?position=1&state=OHIO.
Currently, more than 200 positions are available.