Like many industries, the Gainesville Police Department has seen a decline in job applications since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said this is something that is being seen nationwide.
“Subjectively, I think that some of the anti-police sentiment that we saw roll across the nation kind of played into when somebody is weighing the salary options versus the risks,” he said.
Parrish thinks another reason could be the rise of the private sector.
“Private sectors are paying so much more money now than they used to for labor, that is not yet trained,” he said. “Before, there were a lot of private sector industries that you had to have work experience in that field before they would hire you at some of the salaries that they're paying.”
The State of Georgia by law certifies officers to have arrest powers and the minimal requirements of training called the Peace Officer Standard and Training Council. This is 408-hour basic training, also known as a police academy.
“For us [Gainesville PD] it is a little longer, it is 16 weeks because we do an advanced portion to get some more advanced training,” Parrish said. “So just the police academy alone is 16 weeks, and then they're spending another 16 weeks in a police car with a senior training officer on the job training.”
The Gainesville Police department's starting pay is $22.90 an hour and increases with experience according to Parrish. For benefits, they offer a cafeteria plan, retirement plan, free medical and a high deductible health savings account plan.
“The main benefit for anybody that's ever been a police officer is the job and the reward of doing the job and helping others,” he said.
Another reason for the shortage of police officers, Parrish noticed many people prefer to work from home. However, for anyone wanting to become an officer, he encourages people to come to the station to see what it is really like to be a police officer in Gainesville.
“Don't let Hollywood tell you what it's like to be a police officer. If you're over 18 years old, you can do a ride-along with our police officers and see what that job is like,” Parrish said. “Talk to other police officers to get a real perspective. And more than anything, go to GPD jobs.com and fill out an application.