Middle TN law enforcement faces personnel shortages

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – COVID-19. Social justice.

These are just some of the problems law enforcement has faced in recent years, prompting some officers to retire and preventing candidates from applying.

News 2 contacted a handful of agencies on Wednesday, asking them about their staffing situation.

Ashland City Police say they are licensed for 20 officers and have no openings.

On the other hand, Hendersonville police said the police department has lost seven officers and is interviewing applicants next week.

Mt. Juliet Police are not reporting any vacancies at this time, having filled three positions last week.

Nolensville police told News 2 that all 16 positions are currently filled.

Columbia Police say the department is authorized for 91 officers and currently has 84 officers on the force.

Brentwood Police is authorized to 67 officers and is currently down to four. Police Chief Richard Hickey told News 2 that three candidates are currently undergoing background checks and could start within a month.

“The challenge is that it can take almost a year to train a new officer and go through the police academy, so it takes a long time before we can use a new officer on the streets,” the chief said. Hikey.

The starting salary for a Brentwood police officer is $47,200.

Franklin Police is licensed for 132 positions and is not currently hiring, while Millersville has 16 full-time officers and no current openings. The same goes for Belle Meade, which employs 15 agents.

The Metro Nashville Police Department is the largest police department in Central Tennessee, licensed for 1,558 officers. The department currently has 1,384 officers, but officials say there are 65 currently being trained.

The Metro Police has a flashy promotional website that promotes good pay, good health care, and many other career opportunities.

A public information officer told News 2 that the department is always on the lookout for qualified candidates and promotes progressive policies:

  • Attend a wide variety of career fairs and colleges, including HBCUs, to attract a diverse pool of applicants.
  • Chef Drake has committed to the 30×30 initiative to have 30% women by 2030.
  • Roll call training for all officers to be recruiters.
  • Advertising campaigns to attract agents from other (lateral) jurisdictions
  • Advertising campaign inside Bridgestone and on Lower Broadway to attract candidates visiting the city.

The Subway Police Training Department modified physical agility tests and stress tests. Lactation rooms have also been added for officers who are new mothers. The department also has the possibility for female agents to pump breast milk during their service.

The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is licensed for 454 positions and currently has 127 correctional officers. This job starts at $41,767.

Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford told News 2 his agency lost six highway deputies.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said his operation was down two patrol deputies and 17 corrections officers in the jail, not to mention three dispatchers.

In Lawrence County, Sheriff John Myers lost four deputies and 13 correctional officers.

“We are understaffed in all areas. We are a 365 day a year, 7 day a week operation. When we’re short on manpower, it poses serious safety concerns,” Myers said.

Myers says the starting salary for MPs in their 30s and high stress make it difficult to hire new candidates.

“32,000? How do you live with this? With fuel and inflation and all that, it’s like going down a hole. It’s hard to keep people because of the salary, to retain them and get them to apply,” he said.

Myers says that in previous years he would lose skilled agents to bigger departments, like Metro. He says that nowadays veterans are simply retiring.

“Not so much now. We see veteran MPs leaving. They’re just hanging up the gun belt. They say the pay is not worth the stress. The salary is no longer worth the work. We don’t do this for pay. We do it to sleep well at night. And we get something back and contribute to our community. We don’t do it for pay, we never have, but you have to be compensated,” he said.

Myers recently spoke to young teenagers and asked if anyone wanted to be a police officer – not a single hand went up.

Lt. Mike Doddo works for the Hickman County Sheriff’s Office and has been a law officer for over 25 years. He says low pay, high stress, danger and shifting negativity against law enforcement officers have profoundly changed the profession.

“People don’t want to be the cops anymore. They are tired of protecting themselves, tired of seeing law enforcement officers being criminally charged for what they are trained to do. People don’t want the police to be responsible anymore. Recruitment figures are falling everywhere, the quality of candidates is no longer there. Go to sheriff’s conferences and hear the same issues. We cannot find quality candidates whom we can trust to protect citizens,” Doddo said.

As in Lawrence County, Hickman County road deputies start at around $32,000. Correctional officers earn even less.

“It’s hard to raise a family on that. We have guys who have worked here for many years and have to work 3 or 4 jobs to support the families. I can’t blame someone who doesn’t want to work for nothing. Law enforcement is a necessary evil. We need order and discipline or we will have anarchy. Woke culture is destroying society as we know it today,” Doddo said.

When asked how he would sell the Hickman County Sheriff’s Department the way the Metro Police are promoting their department, Doddo laughed.

“You’re not selling it. You can not. Labor negativity is constantly in the media. You have to want to do that. You won’t make any money. You are constantly guessed and questioned. There is no sales pitch for this. You have to want to do it. You need strength to do this job,” he said.

Doddo says his fellow officers he speaks with in Florida, California and Georgia feel the same way.

When asked if he would go into law enforcement now, based on current events, Doddo laughed and said quickly, “Absolutely not.”

Although he says his career has been satisfying and fulfilling, he says he certainly wouldn’t push his kids into law enforcement because it’s too dangerous and the pay is too low.

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