Nationwide cop shortage not impacting FM area agencies

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WEST FARGO, N.D. - (Valley News Live) There’s a shortage of officers across the nation, according to the federal government.

The scarcity of peace officers is causing some law enforcement agencies to relax certain policies to get well-prepared candidates. Yet, the West Fargo Police Department said it won’t lower its standards when screening an applicant’s background.

“The pool of applicants may have shrunk over the years, but the quality of candidates is still there,” West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Jerry Boyer said.

His police department is on the hunt for an officer. At the start of 2019, they began advertising for a newly created position to meet the demands of a growing city.

The West Fargo PD has 60 officers, and while they only have one open position, just last year they had four openings.

Boyer said the department is exploring the possibility of allowing officers with tattoos and beards.

“We’re looking at beards right now. As far as whether the community is supportive of those… we’ll see what the feedback is,” Boyer said.

According to the Department of Justice, the total number of sworn peace offers has decreased by 23,000 since 2013.

The number of peace officers per 1,000 residents is also down nationwide. In 1997 it was 2.42 per 1,000 residents and in 2016 it was 2.17 officers per 1,000.

Boyer said his department can use more patrol officers.

“We respond to domestics with at least two officers,” Boyer said. “We’re able to respond to alarm calls with at least two officers. So you want to make sure you have the correct level of staffing 24/7.”

Boyer believes extra media scrutiny and the added pressures of handling mental health calls may be some reasons for the shortage of officers.

The Fargo Police Department tells us it only has one opening, while the Cass County Sheriff’s Office has a waiting list pool for filling its full-time positions.