Law enforcement agencies along with correctional facilities in Oregon are finding it increasingly difficult to find and recruit new officers. Numerous potential applicant are failing a background check compounded by failure of fitness tests and psychological assessment. The potential shortfall in law enforcement is not helped by impending retirement of the current ‘baby boomers’ workforce. A labor gap is currently being created within law enforcement due to retirement rates and more stringent recruiting policy inclusive fitness and background check procedures. However this is seen an issue that not only affects Oregon but is put forward as a nationwide issue. What is further seen as a perfect storm is the public’s poor opinion and perception of police and law enforcement.
The problem affects not only law enforcement that patrol the streets of Oregon but also the staff to safely and adequately control correctional facilities and prisons. At a public meeting of October 22 a number of high ranking officials agreed that the impending labor gap was a pressing issue. An instance was put forward whereby there were 12 openings at Gresham Police Dept. and over 200 individuals applied. Mindful of the revised background check policy two people received job offers. The Sheriff’s Dept at Marion County has also felt the squeeze where those retiring from the force have left opportunity’s for 26 (deputies). The other flip side is where the opportunity has been widened there are still problems finding females to work with the force.
Salem police Dept. also confirm similar difficulties. Adverts for positions are seeing a high response but proportionately small numbers qualify. Salem also sees within the coming years rising retirement numbers. Potential applicants and recruits are falling short on the fitness test which include running, push ups and sit ups. The background check which is inclusive prior convictions and arrests i.e. conduct unbecoming is also seeing failures. Reports confirm that they are seeing a high number of “wash outs” as applicants aren’t entirely forthcoming with background check investigators. Feedback also confirms that some applcants are unable to manage their own financial affairs.
Applicants are failing to be open about prior arrests or drug use but then state they forgot to include the detail in the application. More worryingly applicants are also failing psychological exams. Police hierarchy confirm though that standards can’t be lowered irrespective. Over 150 state police troopers in Oregon will be eligible to retire within the coming 2 years. There is no quick fix or solution mindful that the background check policy and due diligence is there to uphold the trust the public place in law enforcement.
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