Lee County Sheriff Stacey Weber said Friday, the number of applications the department has received has steadily declined.
Deputies said it’s only getting worse.
“Honestly, I’ve been in this career 17 years now and I’d never thought I would see it get to this point,” Lee County Sheriff’s deputy Tommy Oberman said.
Sheriff Weber said fewer and fewer people are applying to become deputies.
A recruit test back in June yielded less than 20 participants.
Only seven came out for last month’s test.
Oberman says the problem puts a strain on agencies across the state.
“But still you have that smaller pool of applicants to pick from and you have a large amount of departments that need officers so common sense would say you only have so many apples in the bunch they’re hard to pick,” he said.
Deputies say that’s why they decided to establish an Explorer program.
“It allows them to get a firsthand knowledge of that we do,” deputy Chris Kearns said.
Affilicated with the Boy Scouts, the program meets once a week and allows kids ages 10 to 20 to explore career fields they might be interested in.
“Handcuffing techniques, CSI type work, finger print lifts,” Oberman said.
But deputies say the most important part of the Explorer program is how it demonstrates local law enforcement’s true role in a community.
“It’s very important for them to learn we’re not just here to put people in jail, we’re here to help people,” Kearns said.
Obermain said modern policing means community policing.
“It’s nice to be able to show community service is still an important job, a meaningful job and important job,” he said.
Sheriff Weber said if you’re interested in the Explorers program, you can visit the department or contact him.