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Many Oklahoma Police Departments Seeing Decrease In New Applicants

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A nationwide police officer shortage is stretching some forces thin. A nationwide police officer shortage is stretching some forces thin.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Normally this time of year, hundreds of new Oklahoma police officers hit the streets. But, a nationwide police officer shortage is stretching some forces thin.

Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks said despite their largest number of academy graduates, they've seen a drop in the number of new applicants to the department. Those low applicant numbers are also echoed in smaller departments around the state.

“We've had the fewest number of applicants that we've had,” Chief Bob Ricks from the Edmond Police Department said Thursday. “It took a special person that would say 'I really want to be a policeman or policewoman’ in this environment.”

In some major cities across the country like New York or Los Angeles, law enforcement application numbers are down nearly 90 percent, according to a new report from the International Association of Police Chiefs.

The Fraternal Order of Police of Oklahoma City Vice President Mark Nelson said FOP has also seen a decrease over the last five years and that number has only risen in the last year.

He added things like the high profile killing of officers and the perceived threat of being vilified for being an officer, make being a police officer less appealing than it once was.

But Oklahoma City police said they haven't felt the effects.

“Right now we have an academy of 54 recruits in it and the biggest recruits we've ever had is 55, so we're already pushing the limits on that,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police said.

But even with the numbers up, recruits are still concerned about safety in an already dangerous line of work.

“They know what's going on and often times they will ask about things such as that,” Knight said.

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