Agencies struggle to keep officers
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Like most of the other five law enforcement agencies in the county, the Escambia County Sheriff's Department is struggling to keep all of its positions filled.
Recently, the Escambia County (Ala.) sheriff's department lost another member who left for another job position. Smith, who said his department is now about four officers short, is trying to rethink his hiring options.
In the past, Smith said he has tried to hire certified officers, and up until recently, he has been fortunate. Within the last couple of months, he has lost two officers who have moved on to become chiefs of police, and another officer who moved to another state to work in the cyber crimes department.
With the short supply come longer shifts for officers. However, those hours are not paid hours, and Smith said he is not authorized to pay for overtime. Rather, officers receive comp time, and typically they are not allowed more than 80 hours of comp time, Smith said.
While finding certified police officers was not a problem in the past, “police certification is on the decline across the state,” Smith said.
In order to become certified, officers must complete training at the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. First, officers must be admitted to the training academy.
Applicants must be employed as a law enforcement officer at the time of application to the academy, and prior to certification, applicants must complete required course of training.
Applicants must be older than 19, have a regular or advanced high school diploma or a GED certificate, in addition to being certified by a licensed physician stating that the applicant is in good health and physically fit to perform law enforcement duties.
Once admitted, officers must complete several course requirements to become a certified officer. There are nine academies located throughout the state.
In the meantime, Smith said that he will be searching for qualified applicants who can fill the voids in the department. But until then, the sheriff's department will remain “shorthanded.”