Police agencies struggle to hire
Law enforcement agencies throughout the region are having a difficult time placing qualified applicants in open positions within their departments.
The problem, they say, is not with the number of applications being received, but rather with the individuals applying.
Despite an already high fail rate associated with the difficult background check process, officials are seeing an increase in disqualifications for a wide range of positions.
Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn said he has had to draw officers from nearby organizations to fill employment gaps within his department due to the lack of acceptable options.
Many of the applicants barred during the background process are disqualified because of recent drug use, DUI arrests and criminal history. Financial issues and traffic violation are also reviewed as part of the investigation.
In the last year, a review of about 100 applications to the Auburn Police Department resulted in the completion of roughly 10 background checks -- with only two qualified contenders considered for employment.
“Most [disqualifications] have been because of past criminal issues,” Ruffcorn said. “The only good applicants are coming from other organizations.”
Though the department has only one vacancy, Ruffcorn is looking toward filling possible openings at the end of the year.
For Lincoln Police Chief Rex Marks, the hiring situation in his department mirrors that of Auburn.
Marks said even dispatch and reserve positions are becoming more difficult to fill given the number of prohibitive marks against many candidates.
From irresponsible money management to illicit drug use, hopefuls are coming into the interview process less knowledgeable about police work than they were 15 years ago, Marks said.
“We are dealing with a different generation with different expectations,” Marks said.
He said he has even seen individuals come in to interview while under the influence of illegal drugs to calm their nerves – a decision he called unwise.
Both Ruffcorn and Marks acknowledge the difficulty of qualifying for a position as a police officer, but said the number of applicants being turned away is higher than usual.
The Roseville Police Department is not having the same difficulties finding candidates, according to Dee Dee Gunther, public information officer. She said finding new entry-level officers and dispatchers has always been a difficult process.
“When you’re hiring at an entry-level … that’s when you see a lot of background issues come up,” Gunther said.
Folsom Police Chief Cynthia Renaud said agencies in Sacramento and the surrounding areas are all drawing from the same limited pool of candidates.
She said many of the organizations throughout the state share the same employment cycle, which further limits the selection of agencies on the market for new officers.
Renaud said she does not doubt that many police departments are having trouble finding qualified applicants, but said she sees it as more of an “employment cycle” issue, as opposed to a growing trend in the number of disqualifications.
Forrest Richardson, lieutenant with the Rocklin Police Department, attributes the high disqualification numbers he sees to a wide range of issues, not a singular disqualifying factor.
Richardson said he has also seen an increase in the number of applications being submitted.
“We are running into difficulty throughout the process,” Richardson said. “The difficult part is to look at the totality of the situation.”
Rocklin has seen many candidates turned away from the process based on traffic violations and tickets, according to Richardson.
A representative for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Chris Felton, said the organization has not had difficulties finding new officers because they are often hired from within the agency.
Officials said screenings will continue to weed out the ineligible applications in the hope of finding capable and competent officers and employees.