BANGOR – Police departments around the country are facing a shortage of qualified candidates looking to work for them, even here in Maine.
Like police officers across the nation, the ones at the Bangor Police Department are dedicated to keeping people safe.
“We have been affected by what seems to be a nationwide trend of less interest in policing,” said Sgt. Wade Betters, the public information officer at the Bangor Police Department.
It’s not an easy job to get or do.
To become a police officer in the state of Maine, you need to meet an extensive list of requirements, including an invasive background check and a series of physical and written tests.
“We understand there are no perfect people out there,” Betters said. “We absolutely understand, but there are some things we can deal with and some things we cannot.”
Since the shortage is so expansive, qualified applicants have their choice of stations, meaning departments need to offer competitive pay and benefit packages to attract candidates.
“We want people who care and can be compassionate and reasonable with the public,” Betters added. “This job can burn you down, so some things are going to have to change to drive that interest back up.”
But what does being a police officer entail? We spent Wednesday night with an officer on patrol.
“Our job is so much more than what people perceive police work to be,” Officer Elizabeth Brunton, a patrol officer and the community resource officer at the Bangor Police Department. “We don’t just sit and run radar. Whenever I‘m not going to calls, there is plenty of police work and community policing that we all engage with.”
Brunton said a majority of their time is spent responding to calls.
Sgt. Betters said the police shortage creates more work for everyone.
“There are times the calls go up. We have low times, but there are times calls for service are quite high,” Betters said. “It’s the same work volume divided up by fewer officers.”
Watching over a community is a lot of work, but Brunton said there’s a reason people choose policing as a profession.
“That comradery in order to achieve a mutual goal is really motivating when the job can be a little grinding,” she said.