Shortage of officers alarming to Michigan police departments

Fewer people applying to become police officers

DETROIT – All across Michigan, a shortage of police officers has arisen silently, and if it doesn't stop, it could get dangerous. It's not easy to become a cop these days.

Police officers need an associate's degree and have to graduate from a 16-week police academy and pass a very tough background check with psychological testing and oral boards.

Fewer and fewer people appear to be interested in doing it.

The sign outside the Eastpointe Police Department advertises for reserve officers, but officers said they have four openings right now.

The Southfield Police Department has 10 vacant police officer positions.

Chief Eric Hawkins said unlike a decade ago, filling the positions this year won't happen.

"We'd have a recruitment, we'd have 300 or so show up," Hawkins said. "Now it's 10 or 15 positions and we may have 60 or 70 show up."

Usually, 80 percent of the applicants don't make the cut.

Eastpointe Deputy Chief Eric Keiser said it's made the tough job even more grueling. With fewer hands, there's lots of overtime that nobody wants anymore.

"Having officers work 12 to 16 hour shifts, they're just tired," Keiser said. "When you're tired you make poor decisions and we need our officers rested, they need their days off. So we need to hire these vacancies so we can get more officers on the road."

Applicants are offering their services to every department in the region.

"We're all in competition for a reduced number of applicants these days," Keiser said.

It doesn't help that many police departments have changed their benefits packages so that pensions are mostly gone.

What that will likely do over time is force communities to decide whether they can or will compete for police officers by raising pay, and in turn, taxes. 

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.