BOISE, Idaho —
From Canyon County in the West, Kootenai County in the North, and Bonneville County in the East, law enforcement agencies across Idaho are struggling to hire, and retain, officers and staff.
As the state sees an influx of newcomers, low unemployment, and a hot housing market, coupled with record inflation, some law enforcement agencies are struggling with shortages and burn out, while battling increasing crime.
In cities across America, if you call 911, there are fewer dispatchers taking your call, and fewer officers responding.
Law enforcement agencies face a daunting challenge, recruiting and retaining staff. Some agencies are in crisis, with staffing shortages impacting services, and forcing them to get creative to meet an increasing workload demand, with less supply.
Multiple factors drive this shortage, as concern, scrutiny and distrust of policing mount due to high profile excessive force incidents, like the killing of George Floyd. While Idaho did not see protests or calls for budget cuts to the same degree as other states, we are not immune to this shortage.
'We’re Hiring' signs line windows all over the state, but most other industries do not face some of the negative perceptions law enforcement agencies do, adding to the challenge to recruit and retain employees.
The Idaho Department of Correction knows this pressure, as it faced critical staffing shortages in the state’s prisons over the past year.
Some law enforcement agencies in Idaho are experiencing more promising staffing, even as applications decrease. Law enforcement leaders pointed to Meridian and Nampa, which sit right next to each other but across county lines, with Meridian in Ada County and Nampa in Canyon County.
As these departments find their way above the crisis, many officers are moving from other states or even other local departments to join their ranks. So, can they keep up with workload demand?
This day and age, fewer people meet the strict hiring standards to become a cop. Around the country, departments are changing their standards so they can get more applicants.
Canyon County is now considering candidates who have used marijuana between one and three years ago, just not in the last year. They are also interviewing 18 year olds to work in the jail; previously, people had to be 21.
Boise police, meanwhile, changed its qualifications this summer and got rid of its associate degree requirement. Now, officers only need a high school diploma or GED, which is what all other agencies in the valley require.
Some law enforcement leaders say changing and lowering certain standards can be a double-edged sword and lead to more problems in the profession. They do not see it as a solution to resolve the cop shortage. However, other potential solutions do exist.
KTVB’s award winning investigative team reports on local, crime, and breaking news across Idaho.