Law enforcement departments around the state have begun to relax their uniform protocols, in an attempt to bring in more recruits, boost morale, and become more relatable to the community.
For the past two to three years, law enforcement departments have struggled to recruit, hire, and retain officers. The combination of increases in retirements and resignations, fewer applicants, and negative portrayals of and attitudes toward law enforcement has only increased the difficulty of bringing in new recruits.
“Our numbers are down in personnel strength as well as applicants. There are a lot of people struggling to find good applicants for all positions,” Major John Altman, academy commandant with The Ohio State Highway Patrol, told The Ohio Star.
Departments across the state such as the Akron Police Department, Columbus Police Department, Cleveland Police Department, Middletown Police Department and, as of Friday, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, have all made adjustments to their policies to encompass a broader spectrum of potential candidates.
Some of these adjustments include the permission to grow well-kept beards and goatees, as well as some, allowing visible or covered tattoos so long as they are not on the face, neck, or hands.
“Recruitment is definitely part of it. We have to look at every opportunity to bring in qualified applicants. It has always been an immediate disqualification if you have a visible tattoo,” Altman told The Star.
Altman said that the recruitment staff is very excited to open the doors and bring in some diverse new individuals who are ready to serve, adding that recruiters will be reaching out to hundreds of previously passed-over candidates now that the new uniform policies are in place.
Earlier this year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine awarded law enforcement recruitment grants to 11 counties in an attempt to help remedy this statewide problem.
“Law enforcement is a distinguished and honorable profession, but agencies all over the country are facing serious shortages in new recruits, which is dangerous for the current workforce and for the citizens they serve and protect,” DeWine said in a press release.
Law enforcement agencies around the state have been offering high hourly salaries, sign-on bonuses, and now, more relaxed uniform policies, in an attempt to make employment attractive and gain recruits to increase the safety of Ohioans.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]