Staff shortages continue to impact local law enforcement | New


YAKIMA, Wash. – Washington has the lowest number of officers per capita in its history, since data began being tracked in 1980. That’s according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

This staffing shortage continues to impact jobs at our local law enforcement agencies like the Washington State Patrol, Yakima Police Department, and Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.

Private Chris Thorson of WSP said a lack of soldiers made them prioritize some things over others.

“We are doing the best we can,” he said. “Obviously we’re going to prioritize 911 calls, fatal and serious collisions and DUI drivers, reckless drivers, once we get that out of the way we’ll have time to take proactive action.”

Photo by WSP

Captain Jay Seely of the YPD Patrol Division said they had to move resources and personnel. The agency wishes to fill its 15 open positions to also be more proactive.

“One hundred percent we would like to increase the staffing of our domestic violence unit,” he said. “It’s a very common problem in this community and we’ve dedicated a whole team to it, but they’re drowning, they’re drowning in cases.”

According to Captain Seely, these shortages were planned and likely started because several COPS Grant officers retired at the same time. The COPS grant was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It originally provided $8.8 billion over six years to hire new officers or rehire retired officers and support training.

Captain Seely said the shortage only got worse after law change officers disagreed. Then came the vaccine mandate.

According to a Washington State Patrol press release, the warrant cost them 127 total employees and 74 commissioned soldiers.

Law enforcement tried to spread the word on social media about hiring, attending community events and job fairs. However, hiring was a nightmare.

“We’re competing nationally for the same officers, the same pool, we fish the same pond for the same people,” Capt Seely said.

Yakima County agencies are unable to offer hiring incentives at this time, making competition for the same candidates even more difficult.

YCSO is able to offer incentives for 911 dispatch agent positions.

Law enforcement also faces other obstacles.

“Well, one thing is some people just don’t want to be a police officer, it’s a dangerous profession,” Captain Seely said.

YCSO public information officer Casey Schilperoort said in a statement that there were several reasons for this.

“The current generation may not want to perform these functions. This could be the current political climate. It could be that the profession is despised now. It could be that police officers don’t feel supported in the areas of the country and people don’t want to enter the profession until something changes. It could be the increasingly strict laws that favor criminals and prevent officers from arresting criminals.

Cavalier Thorson said it could also be due to a distrust of police officers.

“If you have that suspicious thought or maybe your friends or family have that suspicious, I encourage you to apply,” Cavalier Thorson said. “If you have mistrust because you think you’re underrepresented in a certain community, then be the changemaker.”

These agencies also hire in other areas such as dispatch.

For people applying to become officers, getting into the academy can take months. Training takes another 17-19 weeks.

Captain Seely said one thing that could solve the staffing problem is the recent shift to regional training centers, such as the center opening in Pasco.

“It gives us the opportunity to hire more people and send them to the academy right away,” he said. “Remember that once they get to the academy, it takes them a year before they become able to go out on their own and work.”

If you’re interested in becoming a police officer, WSP, YPD, and YSCO all hire for a range of different positions.


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