The Penn Highlands Police Academy held an open house Wednesday evening with the hopes of enrolling new recruits.
Hardly any police department in the area is not actively hiring new officers and more jobs are expected to open as a slew of officers are getting ready to retire.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data examined by SafeHome, the total number of police employed nationally declined by about 10,000 between 2012 and 2021. Though this is a one percent difference, the population grew seven percent over the same time period. In Pennsylvania there are only about 4 officers per 1 thousand residents.
“Not only the local police departments but across the state, statewide police departments and national police departments, there’s a dramatic shortage of police officers”
The Penn Highlands Police Academy currently has 27 applications for their program.
“In order to get into the police academy you have to go through a rigorous pre-screening course which includes physical agility, criminal history, driving checks, a five-panel drug test, physical examinations, psychological examinations So, there’s a series of pre-screening tests that the cadets have to pass before they’re accepted.”
In recent years the type and rigor of police training has been updated. The curriculum is state mandated and places emphasis on de-escalation.
“We’re creating an atmosphere in which we are training up the next generation of law enforcement officers in a meaningful manner in which we emphasize de-escalation,”
There are currently many incentives for those hoping for a career in law enforcement. The current average yearly salary of an officer in Pennsylvania is $75,097 and many institutions will sponsor recruits through the program.
“I am interested in becoming a police officer because it’s something that I’ve always been interested in, This is the perfect opportunity. UPMC is interested in sponsoring me and I want my career to be as an officer with UPMC so I see a great future in it.”
The next Penn Highlands Police Academy Open House is on March 8th.