HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) — Many police departments across the country are seeing a decline in the number of applicants. Over the last few years, there have been story after story about police shortages and the struggles behind recruitment and retention nationwide.
Our area is no exception. Some departments are seeing the decline in applicants, like the Horry County Police Department.
In 2017, the department received around 700 applicants. In 2018, they received less than 500.
“Our numbers have dropped tremendously over the past few years. Probably since the event with Ferguson and then it goes downhill," Recruitment Officer Jodi Ridgeway said.
Ridgeway said salary, fear and public perception of law enforcement are some of the obstacles they face when it comes to recruiting officers. Lt. Paul Murdock agreed.
“Not everyone wants to wear a gun and a badge every day. Not everyone wants to fight what other people fear," he said.
That's where recruitment officers come into play, talking to potential candidates and using platforms like social media to advertise the job.
"We need good people to continue the good fight," Ridgeway said.
The Horry County Sheriff's Office is also facing the same struggles.
In 2015 the department received 258 applicants; last year they received just 65.
Some smaller departments, like the Conway Police Department, aren't facing this issue right now.
In 2017 the department received 51 applicants; in 2018 that number increased to 65.
The Myrtle Beach Police Department hasn't seen much of a change, Cpl. Thomas Vest said.
“We are very active in our recruiting. We attend several recruiting events around the state, we have a very active social media presence where we can get information out about recruiting but the biggest thing for us is we are one of the highest paid departments in the state," he said.
But MBPD hasn't been immune to dealing with recruitment and retention. In 2017, the department unveiled a seven year plan that, in part, highlighted these issues.
Since this issue is nationwide, departments have to compete for officers.
“It's always a competition; it’s a fight. You have to act quickly because your best candidates are going to be taken by somebody else if you don’t take them as quick as they can," Murdock said.
Plus, departments aren't just competing with each other.
"We do also compete with the private sector and when the economy is healthy there are a lot of opportunities for people graduating college and graduating from high school," Vest said.
A starting salary for a non-certified Myrtle Beach police officer is $40,000. For more information or to apply, click here.
The starting salary for a non-certified Horry County police officer is $37,349. For more information or to apply, click here.