Midstate police chiefs see dramatic decline in recruits

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Midstate police chiefs say they’re having a hard time recruiting officers. It’s a big problem for them, but it’s an even bigger problem for you because it affects your safety and tax dollars.

Around 300 recruits typically come out to the annual consortium for police departments in Cumberland County and Fairview Township, York County. Only about 100 people interested in becoming police officers showed up Saturday at Eagle View Middle School. Normally, the event is two days long, but it WAS shortened to one day due to the turnout.

Arman Peco drove all the way from New Jersey when he learned about the consortium. He took part in the physical test which included push-ups, sit-ups, and a run, and then he headed inside to take a written test.

“It felt alright at first. The run was a little intense,” Peco said as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

Peco felt a little tired after this day, but it wasn’t as intense as what he escaped in Bosnia.

The turnout for this year’s consortium went down 200 percent from the past few years.

“There was a war in the early 90s in my country. We came here through the United Nations as refugees,” Peco said.

Peco drove from New Jersey to Cumberland County in hopes of making an impact in his new home country.

“I was like, you know what, I’ll give it a shot. I came down. It’s a beautiful area. I really wanted to get into police work because I migrated to this country as a refugee from my country. It’s kind of my way of giving back and, like, a sense of duty.” Peco said as he sat among lots of empty chairs while waiting to take his written test.

Camp Hill police Chief Doug Hockenberry is the president of the Cumberland County Chiefs of Police Association. He believes the dramatic decrease in recruits is due to several things, such as not having enough qualified candidates, fears for safety, the police being portrayed in a negative light.

“Some of it is just the shift work. Some of it is the money that goes along with it, the media that goes along with the bad ideas of the police departments,” Hockenberry said.

Mechanicsburg police Chief Margaret Myers has been working in law enforcement for 39 years.

“There was an uptick in recruits and support for police after Sept. 11. Now, support for the police is the lowest I’ve seen in my career,” Myers said.

Myers says that lack of support leads to some concerns about public safety. She went to the consortium in hopes of hiring an officer.

“Response times could go up. Overtime definitely goes up,” Myers said.

“It affects us with scheduling. It affects us with court time and officers on the streets for calls to service,” Hockenberry said.

This is all something Peco hopes to change.

“This country gave me safe refuge. It gave me education. It gave me everything I needed to be able to come up, so now I just feel like giving back is the right thing to do. When somebody helps you, you find a way to thank them, and this is my thank you,” Peco said.

This is an issue across the Midstate. Police departments in Dauphin, Lancaster, and York Counties told ABC27 News they’re having a similar problem.

Myers said you can still apply to become a police officer if you missed Saturday’s consortium by going to officer.com or calling departments directly.

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