Police shortages are being reported around the U.S., with low pay and negative public feelings about law enforcement keeping numbers down.
La Crosse is among the cities having trouble recruiting new members for both police and fire departments, according to police and fire commission chair Doug Happel.
“There was a time when I came on to the commission, some 15 years ago, we’d have 60 applicants,” Happel told La Crosse County committee on policing Wednesday. “Last time we interviewed for police officers, we had five.”
Happel said the pressure to find new firefighters or police officers is growing. That’s partly because many of the staffers, who were hired 20 to 30 years ago, are reaching retirement age.
He added that the problem is worse with police than in the fire department. There are eight police vacancies now out of 98 positions.
The commission just spent four months searching for a new La Crosse fire chief to succeed Ken Gilliam. Jeffrey Schott was appointed last week.
“More so, in police but somewhat in fire, we are having real problems recruiting people to go into the profession,” Happel said.