NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Police departments across Rhode Island are struggling to recruit new officers.
North Providence Police Chief Alfredo Ruggiero tells 12 News the department used to receive hundreds of applications. Nowadays, he said they’re lucky if they crack a dozen.
Ruggiero said while the department is currently in a good spot with staffing, recruitment numbers are at a record low.
“We’re hoping to get one or two or three good applicants,” he said.
It’s becoming more of a problem as officers get older and retire. But Ruggiero said it doesn’t mean communities are any less safe.
“It’s more taxing on the officers because they may have to work mandatory overtime,” he said.
The capital city is seeing the effects too. The Providence Police Department historically draws in nearly 3,000 applicants to the city’s police academy. But the most recent one only had 999 recruits.
For the first time in the departments history, Providence Police are accepting applications from officers in other communities.
Meanwhile, the Cranston Police Department is currently down 10 officers due to retirements and are hoping to hire more this summer.
The Woonsocket Police Department is also in the process of recruiting new members, though the chief believes this is their lowest turnout since he arrived in 2016.
Ruggiero said that, even though the department boasts about pensions and benefits that come with the badge, recruitment numbers continue to dip.
When asked why he thinks that’s happening, Ruggiero believes it comes down to public perception.
“I think the issue we’re seeing throughout the country is the lack of support from the residents and political leadership,” he said. “Law enforcement has taken a backseat.”
Massachusetts isn’t immune to staffing shortages either.
In Attleboro, the chief has asked the city for an additional $80,000 for overtime pay because they’re down several officers. The Fall River Police Department is currently down 17 officers, and New Bedford is offering sign-on bonuses to combat their staffing shortage.