Law enforcement struggling to find qualified candidates

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are facing a common issue when hiring new officers. (WCHS/WVAH)

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are facing a common issue when hiring new officers - not enough qualified candidates are applying.

It's not the job for everyone, but it is for Patrolman Erik Pauley. He was hired by the South Charleston Police Department about nine months ago.

"It's always been a dream since I was about 16 years old to be a police officer," Pauley said.

Lt. Pat Rader, chief of detectives, said it's a job that requires more than a high school diploma and passing a physical fitness test.

"A background that your mother would be proud of," Rader said. "I'm not saying that everybody's an angel or that you have to be an angel, but you've got to have some character and integrity to you. You're representing a lot more people than just yourself."

When Rader applied to be a police officer 24 years ago, there were about 250 others right alongside him. Now, he said it's rare if there are more than 40 applicants, and most aren't qualified for the role.

"We have these people test and they have these things in their background that are disqualifying behaviors. Their integrity is in question. Their character is in question. This is nationwide, this isn't limited to West Virginia or Charleston or South Charleston. It's everywhere," Rader said.

Pauley said it's also a dangerous job.

"With all that's going on across America, you know we have officers get killed every day. We had an officer in Colorado lose his life yesterday. I just believe that your heart really has to be in it," Pauley said.

It's a lot of work for not a lot of money, and he said you need to be motivated helping others.

"This job goes more than just 9 to 5 or 6 to 6. You're a police officer 24/7. You're going to have to help people who don't care to help themselves," Pauley said.

Rader said he encourages "everybody who thinks they have it in them to help somebody they don't know to get past a troubled spot in their lifetime."

To apply to be a South Charleston police officer, you can stop by the station and fill out an application or give the department a call. Currently, the department is hiring for the position of probationary patrolman. Testing will take place March 17 at South Charleston High School. Applications are due March 14.

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