JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Friday’s recruit class of eight officers may be the smallest recruit class the Jackson Police Department has seen in recent years, a 72 percent drop since the 29-member class that graduated two years ago.
JPD Chief James Davis acknowledged they’re seeing fewer applicants, but said he’s proud of those who’ve chosen to serve.
“It feels good to bring new members to the Jackson Police Department, people that is committed to want to go through the training, you know. For eight weeks you isolate in the academy with only the instructors, and you can’t see your family members, you know, so that just a commitment in itself,” Davis said.
This year’s eight-week academy training required recruits to stay on campus the entire time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Davis said the declining numbers he’s seeing are indicative of trends across the country, and also cited issues within the city of Jackson that have contributed to the department’s reduction in police officers.
“You don’t have a whole lot of people just inspiring to take on the load to deal with increasing -- if you look all across the city: increasing homeless population, mentally ill, drug abuse,” Davis said. “And some police officers left the police department because of the stress of dealing with that.”
Record killings in the city, a shortage of manpower and increased scrutiny from officer-involved killings across the nation also weigh on their minds when they protect and serve. Add the pandemic on top of that, and you have an enormous amount of stress, Davis said.
Police officers in general don’t have the luxury of working remotely because their jobs revolve around interacting with the public.
“The stress of the community is on the shoulders of police officers. And that is very difficult,” Davis said.
Davis said he doesn’t think issues within JPD contribute to those low recruit classes.
He’s encouraged by higher salaries that Friday’s recruit class will see for the first time, and believes better pay and more strategies to deal with mentally ill individuals will help numbers in the future.
JPD spokesperson Sam Brown said they already have 23 people who have signed up for the next class, which kicks off next month.