ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - In St. Paul, the pool of police recruits is dwindling and the numbers are eye-opening.
Four years ago, nearly 800 people applied to be police officers. Now, that number stands at a little over 200.
“The number of people entering law enforcement programs is shrinking, the people graduating out of the skills program is shrinking,” said St. Paul Police Deputy Chief Mary Nash.
The struggle to recruit and retain officers has become a national trend. Deputy Chief Nash says that low unemployment and a negative perception of police are partly to blame.
“To change the numbers we have to be out and generate the interest,” said Deputy Chief Nash.
“We don’t attract the best when we pay at the bottom,” said David Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation.
Titus says that low salary is driving the department out of the competitive market.
For example, Minneapolis pays the most with annual wage starting at nearly $64,000 compared to $56,000 in St.Paul.
“When you can go to Eden Prairie, Bloomington, Minneapolis, you can work just about any agency in the metro and make tens to hundreds of dollars more in a career,” said Titus.
The St. Paul Police Department has stepped up recruiting efforts, which has included outreach to women and minorities. Looking to boost interest, a Wednesday application deadline has now been extended to Monday.
“We hope by Monday we can add a few more to that list,” said Deputy Chief Nash.