The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy trains 70 recruits every three weeks to become law enforcement officers.
Even though the academy is seeing packed classrooms, departments across the state are still having trouble putting officers on the road.
The director of the academy, Jackie Swindler, says the issue is retaining new officers.
“We have found that 53% of those that graduate leave this profession in 5 years, so that’s a turnover right there. That causes us to have a lot of students so generally every agency is hiring right now,” said Swindler.
West Columbia Police Department is one of those hiring agencies. The department wants to hire about a handful of officers.
Assistant Chief Scott Morrison explained the decrease he’s seen.
“In the past two years, it’s become more difficult nationwide and statewide to get good folks to apply for these jobs due to things that have gone in the country,” says Morrison.
The department is using creative ways to attract more officers. Salaries have increased $4000 and there’s even a sign-on bonus.
“There are other agencies around the state that have done similar things and really, in this day and age, you really have to do what you can to get those qualified candidates,” explained Morrison.
But even after a department hires a recruit and he or she makes it to the academy, it still takes some time before they are able to get out on the road.
Swindler broke down the hiring process.
“They have to go out and find this person who can meet the requirements. Come here and pass and get back and then they have to stay with a field training officer for a while. So, it can be a year process between you meeting someone and actually getting to work them,” states Swindler.
Out of the 70 students in a training class at the criminal justice academy, only about 50 will graduate. The class is 12 weeks long.