Local sheriffs say civil unrest has made it more difficult to recruit new officers

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — From the COVID-19 pandemic to rising community tensions, police struggle to fill their ranks around the country. It’s no different locally.

We spoke with two local police leaders who say their recruiting efforts have gotten much more challenging.

“I think we’re all going to see a little bit of a decline because of those factors,” said Lee County Sheriff John Simonton.

Following a summer in which police officers across the country came under intense scrutiny following the death of George Floyd. One local sheriff says recruiting new deputies can prove challenging.

“Not knowing what type of police reform acts, laws, or bills are going to be sought after and how that’s going to affect policing in the future. So there’s a lot of unknowns, and uncertainty always makes people hesitate to go into a career like this,” said Sheriff Simonton.

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton says the department has been seeking applicants for the last several weeks and numbers are down slightly from what he’d normally expect to see.

He wants anyone still thinking about applying to know that generally, officers don’t need to worry about racial tension or civil unrest.

“The things that have happened, a very low percentage. We’re talking less than one percent of policing throughout the nation that has had those types of incidents,” Sheriff Simonton said.

“We as deputies every day make positive contacts. And a lot of times, they’re not being talked about. But there are a lot more positive contacts than the negative,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana agrees. His department is actively recruiting right now. He hopes recent events don’t discourage people from thinking about a career in law enforcement.

“It has been a difficult year, with the arrests, the Covid, but there are those people that want to be here, they want to get involved with the community, get involved with law enforcement, and we want them,” Sheriff Caruana said.

The deadline to apply to become a deputy is November 23rd for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and January 8th for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.

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