Recruitment challenges: At least 1 Twin Cities police department short more than 60 officers

Law enforcement is not a popular profession right now. Officers currently in the industry who are looking to make a lateral move likely have their pick of jobs right now. FOX 9 asked two departments about the current recruitment challenges and strategies they feel are working.

The need for Metro Transit police officers is greater than it was when Sgt. Kelly Franco started 15 years ago, and yet, there are fewer officers on hand to respond.

"We might have a couple of assaults, a couple of operator assaults, fights all in the same day. And back to back," she said. "Our officers are going call to call to call, and a lot of times they can't be as proactive as they want to be. Everything's kind of reactive at this point."

The Metro Transit Police Department is budgeted for 171 officers and currently has just 108.

It's a similar story with the St. Paul Police Department. 

"I would say we're maybe 30 or 40 officers short from where we should be, and we do have in anticipation of officers retiring the next two or three years," said Kou Yang, a recruitment sergeant with the St. Paul Police Department. 

Yang said departments are having to raise wages to compete with the suburban departments, which can often offer hiring bonuses. So it's become even more important for recruitment officers to let future candidates know how their departments stand out.

"One of the biggest challenge is going to these recruiting events and having the majority or most of the folks are students that come through – They already have a job lined up for them… I would say in a pool of about maybe 100, about 20 percent don't have a job," he explained.

Over the last year, Hnubqubci Yang has learned so much through her work as a Metro Transit community service officer, or CSO, that she’s applied to become a full-time police officer. 

"We do focus on trains and buses because that's what Metro Transit does. We also focus on damaged properties. We also focus on checking on of our (bus operators) to see if they're okay," she explained. 

CSOs are also eligible for tuition reimbursement, which is a new recruitment strategy. Hnubqubci Yang said she enjoys the work she does and the officers who are teaching her.

"It makes me want to be part of that community and grow with them," she said.

In St. Paul, the department now covers the cost of uniforms so students aren’t paying out of pocket. Department leaders also put a strong focus on mentorship and coaching, and they offer ride-alongs to give students a better understanding of the job.

"We're a bigger agency. We offer a lot more training, a lot more room to grow, a lot more units that you can explore," Sgt. Yang said.

Sgt. Franco said being understaffed means making sacrifices. As an example, officers used to conduct foot beats Monday-Friday in downtown St. Paul, but they don’t have the staff anymore. Additionally, Franco and her fellow sergeants often have to respond to calls with their officers, but she feels having a good team around her makes the work more enjoyable.

"Even though we're short, even though we're going from call to call to call, it helps," she said.

The hiring portal for the St. Paul Police Department opens up the week of March 20. Officers can also apply for lateral transfers.

To learn more about the Metro Transit Police Department hiring process, visit its website.