(Source: MIRS.news, Published 04/13/2022) The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) voted Wednesday to allow Kellogg Community College (KCC) to draft a proposal to become a regional police academy as law enforcement faces an increasing shortage of officers.
According to MCOLES, as of January, there were 18,778 positions available and 18,319 law enforcement officers across Michigan agencies in the state.
“The challenge right now is that vacancies are so high,” said Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker. “Higher than since I’ve been here.”
Blocker, who has been chief since 2014 and with the department since 1999, said he needs officers now or as soon as possible and would take all the help he could get filling those spots.
He said that was one of the reasons for approaching KCC about seeking the regional academy certification from MCOLES.
“We can get local people who want to stay local. I think it is more enticing for them,” he said.
Blocker said KCC would try to put together a proposal to present to MCOLES by its June meeting.
Michigan Sheriff’s Association Deputy Director Daniel Pfannes said departments across the state, like Blocker’s, are at their lowest level since 2001.
“Everyone is having a problem with it, not just here in Michigan, but all over the country,” Phannes said. “I think there are a myriad of reasons associated with that.”
He pointed to social issues, public perspective issues and financial issues facing departments.
He said there has been a lot of vocal opposition to police coming after the death of George Floyd, along with an anti-law enforcement sentiment. He said much of that has been intensified by social media and the news.
“I think that it’s kind of cast a negative image on the police that is held by a lot of people,” he said.
Blocker echoed his statement and said that negative image is diverting people away from wanting to go into the law enforcement profession. He said it is a worthwhile profession that is not for the faint of heart.
“When we show up, it is the very worst day in someone’s life,” he said. “And it is our responsibility to help them through that.”
Pfannes said another big issue facing recruitment for law enforcement is the financial aspect of the profession. He said it is hard for the law enforcement profession to compete.
He said Wayne County has 650 vacancies it can’t fill. The starting wage was just brought up to $43,000. He said Target is paying $24 per hour for stock people.
“Law enforcement is now competing against other industries that prior to this would have never competed against it,” Pfannes said.
He said one of the biggest pieces of help that law enforcement could receive was offered to the House Appropriations Committee and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as something they could do for free.
“Start saying positive things about the police,” he said. “We know that day in and day out men and women are doing a fantastic job preserving the peace and providing public safety. Let’s give them some recognition for their efforts,”
He said police are human, like everyone else, and there are millions of positive interactions throughout the nation’s communities.
Blocker said at its heart, law enforcement is a public service profession, like teachers and nurses, but those are also experiencing shortfalls.
He said it is an essential profession, because people can’t police themselves.
“The line between chaos and civility is thin and someone has to stand there,” Blocker said.