As the job market continues to struggle, many industries are having a hard time filling open positions.
One that could have an impact on all of us is a hiring crunch in law enforcement.
We were in Altoona as the state’s top law enforcement officer met with local leaders about the growing issue.
Trying to find a solution to what he calls, “a historic public safety staffing shortage,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro visited Altoona Tuesday to talk to local police leaders and city staff about what those solutions may be.
“We have a real challenge on our hands all across Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said as he discussed the growing crisis in the ranks: finding enough police officers.
“In the Altoona Department, five years ago the chief told us they would get 70 applicants now they get a quarter of that,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro says he’s trying to convince lawmakers to provide $29 million in funding to promote retaining current officers and improving training for current and wannabe law enforcement.
“We’ve seen too many good people who could have a good career in law enforcement look the other away because they simply can’t afford the training necessary to get into law enforcement.”
Local chiefs say they’re doing their best to make more with less, but the time to solve staffing shortages is now.
“The more staffing levels you have, the more you’re out in the community.”
A situation made all too real for Blair County law enforcement when Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell was taken hostage by a man inside the Altoona Central Court, where she was the only officer in the holding area. She died in the ensuing struggle.
“Anytime you have a dangerous situation, more officers on the scene will help mitigate that danger so we always want to have as many people as possible.”
We asked Shapiro, who is also running as a Democrat for governor, if he was concerned his party’s rhetoric would break down such funding talks.
“I don’t support defunding police,” I never have.”
“Those you said on the other side who have resisted investments in police, they’re happy to talk about their support for police in tweets and press releases but this is an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.”
An opportunity all involved say needs to be acted on quickly.