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New tools needed to recruit officers

Communities across the nation are facing challenges in recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers. West Virginia is no different. It is a difficult, dangerous job that includes a great deal of public scrutiny over both long-term patterns and split-second decisions. And for many agencies, the pay leaves something to be desired.

Officials are trying to reverse the trend.

West Virginia Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy told MetroNews he would like to see law enforcement employ the same techniques used a few years ago to reverse a hiring downswing for the state’s corrections system. Sandy said in that case the key was improving pay and changing the culture.

Among the changes necessary is an assurance that new officers will receive as much training as is available in dealing with the kinds of circumstances that make those split-second decisions more difficult. Better training, better equipment and better pay mean our law enforcement agencies need more money if they are to recruit the kinds of men and women who will serve and protect communities properly.

Sandy clarified that part of the solution is a change of attitude on the part of potential recruits.

“We need people to have the sense that yes they can get a job that is safer and make more money, but we need to change the balance in our country to where people want to be a public servant and want to serve the people,” he said. He called it a return to the spirit of President John F. Kennedy’s plea to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

Perhaps. But in this case, potential law enforcement officers deserve to know their state, county or community will do as much as it can for them. If they have that, recruits will be much more willing to sign up and do what they can for us.

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