‘We are at an all-time low’: law enforcement agencies work to fill vacancies

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CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Law enforcement agencies are the latest to see staffing shortages.

“We are at an all-time low for applicants,” JJ Jones, Executive Director of the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association said. “The field of law enforcement is shrinking rapidly.”

As the city of Conway continues to grow, police chief Dale Long said it’s crucial to be fully-staffed. “Years ago when you used to get a box full of applications when you went to pick them up after a posting period, now you get a handful,” Long said.

After serving in law enforcement for several years, Long said officer recruitment has changed. “Having more officers get’s more thorough work – better follow ups,” Long said. He said the lack of officer applications are also being seen at other departments.

Horry County police have 16 vacancies within the department. John Harrelson said the goal is to be fully-staffed. “I don’t think any agency ever gets to that point,” Harrelson said.

From 2018 to 2021 several departments, like the CPD, HCPD, and the North Myrtle Beach Public Safety have seen inconsistent new hires leaving departments understaffed.

He said one of the contributing factors is civil unrest . “Press that police officers have seen and the way they have been treated in the media is just very, very unfortunate,” Jones said.

Jones also said low salary rates are keeping applications low. Now, departments are calling on lawmakers to increase pay in order to end the declining trend.

Long said although understaffed, the department will not take shortcuts just to be fully-staffed.

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