Valley police academies struggling to find qualified recruits

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Despite recent cases of violence against officers, interest in law enforcement is still strong at local police academies but getting the recruits through the program is another story. (KFSN)

Despite recent cases of violence against officers, interest in law enforcement is still strong at local police academies. But instructors said finding qualified applicants and making them stay through the duration of training continues to be the number one struggle.

There are only two police academies in the Valley but more than a dozen police departments. And out of the limited number of cadets that graduate, many can't pass background checks.

When applicants first step into the police academy, they often have grandiose visions of what a career in law enforcement will be and when those ideals don't match up with reality instructors said the numbers quickly dwindle.

"They wouldn't tell us exactly, they just told us personal reasons," academy coordinator Jim Edison said. "Personal reasons were they're scared."

Out of the 165 people who most recently applied for the academy, only 112 showed up to take a written test. Instructors said about half of those will ultimately pass and become cadets and not everyone will graduate.

"Once they get in, they realize there's more to it than they thought and they can't do it," Edison explained.

Officers said hearing about fatal police shootings like those in Dallas will sometimes plant seeds of doubt in families, but the ones who pass the first month of the academy usually stick it.

"If it's really what you want, those aspects aren't going to deter you," recruit Marisa Burkdoll said.

Across the valley, police departments said they're struggling to get potential officers mostly because of the lack of qualified applicants. The classes they choose from are already small and many can't pass background checks

"I don't know if it's wishful thinking when they leave the police academy and a lot of things come from their history," Lt. Brett Hershberger with the Clovis Police Department said.

But for those who do clear the many hurdles, hearing about acts of violence against officers, including the most recent shooting in Madera, only strengthens their resolve.

"I don't think it would have deterred me," Burkdoll said. "I'm sure in the moment I would have been scared too. But it's just part of knowing what you are getting into."
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