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Boise Police Department sees decline in applicants

BPD is looking to hire 32 sworn officers and 6 professional staff. According to the department, the number of applicants has been declining since 2017.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Police Department (BPD) is facing challenges in hiring sworn officers and professionals.

Law enforcement is not immune to staffing shortages occurring across the country. BPD is looking to hire 32 sworn officers and 6 professional staff. According to Chief of Police Ryan Lee, the department still has the capacity to respond to current calls, but recruiting is presenting challenges.

“If you're a young person entering the workforce and you are doing the classic debate in your mind of police officer or firefighter, firefighter might seem more attractive at this moment in history,” Lee said. 

According to Lee, the challenge to recruit is a result of generational retirements, lack of affordable housing, and decreased interest in law enforcement following the George Floyd movement

“We are seeing a time of both sort of generational retirements occur, so we had a lot of people join police work 25 to 30 years ago - they have had a full career, they’ve had a full service, so they are looking for a much-deserved retirement and they are leaving,” Lee said.  “We are seeing that wave occur and that wave is going to last a little longer than the next half decade.”

According to the department, the number of applicants has been declining since 2017. During the first part of the application period in 2021, BPD kept the application period open for an extended time to hire more entry-level officers. During the second application period in 2021 however, there were only 75 applicants.

“Some of it is just a generational change, that was going on a little bit before I don't think that it goes past anybody that the national narrative on policing has impacted some folks,” Lee said. “We are seeing some folks, that they are hearing from their loved ones and they’re making their own personal decision that reassessment so some of it is national trends, national narratives, some of it is very personal decisions.”

Lee said in order to change the narrative, the police force has to build a local level of trust and let that spread to other communities. 

“On a national police level, we should be worried that we are portraying the police profession in an appropriate way and that we are not mischaracterizing it and that we are getting the right people into the profession," Lee said.

He added that the City of Boise and its law enforcement is in a better position when it comes to staffing in comparison to police departments across the country. 

In an attempt to attract more applicants, Boise police will focus on creating wellness programs ramping up trust, legitimacy and community support.

“We have the ability to help people to effect change, to make a difference in people's lives, if you have a desire to go forth and truly help a community to be able to care about everything that you could possibly imagine,” Lee said. “It is an opportunity to truly have a servant's heart and to help make your community a better place.”

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