Area Moscow, Idaho, law enforcement agencies are struggling to fill vacant positions within their departments.
Latah County Sheriff Richie Skiles said it has gotten so bad that only seven applications were received during a recent three-week period after the department announced it was hiring deputies. Skiles said he responded to all seven applicants and asked them to attend an initial testing session. When he reached out to them personally, each one agreed to show up on the morning of Aug. 8 – only three did.
The department, which employs 50 people, is looking to fill one position in the jail, one dispatch position and two patrol positions. The department is offering a starting salary of $18.24 an hour for deputies with no experience.
Latah County is not alone in its struggles to remain fully staffed.
Moscow Police Chief James Fry said his department is in the process of trying to fill two open officer positions. When the application deadline closed Sunday, only 11 applications had been submitted. Fry said when he first tested with the department in 1994, he was joined by 42 other applicants. Fry said that the department will hold a testing session in early September.
The MPD is offering a starting salary of nearly $23 an hour.
Across the border, the Pullman Police Department has added two new officers to its force during the past year, but both were recruited directly from an academy. The department has plans to hire a third recruit soon.
Pullman Police Department Cmdr. Chris Tennant said the PPD would love to add three more officers, but there is not enough room in the budget.
Skiles said he understands why people do not want to apply to be a sheriff’s deputy, considering the many national stories that cast law enforcement in a negative light.
“Do you really want a job where people don’t like you very much?” he said.
Still, Skiles said he feels that most people support their local law enforcement.
“There are so many good people,” he said from his desk as he opened an email he recently received praising one of his deputies for a quick response and professionalism. “I get two to three emails or calls like this a month.”
Tennant agreed the national dialogue surrounding police has not helped in attracting qualified candidates to the profession. He said just one questionable shooting involving police on the other side of the country reflects poorly on everyone in the profession.
“It’s unfortunate because each department is unique and represents their communities,” he said.
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