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My Personal Side

By Craig Hastings
Competition for police officers is fierce! Tuscola just lost another one of our two best patrol officers ever employed here. Just last year we suffered the same fate with the other officer I’m speaking of. At a time when more serious and violent crime is taking place even in our little safe haven we’ve enjoyed for as long as I’ve been alive. We’ve been discovering more guns and more drugs in our traffic stops than we’ve ever had in my history here. More concerning is the fact that these people don’t live here. So why are they traveling the inner roadways of our city? I think that answer is clear. Any community’s first line of defense to prevent these violent crimes is to aggressively but legally enforce our traffic laws. After all, a crime can’t be committed without getting to the destination first. This is why for my entire career as police chief here, thirty-six years, I’ve been a strong advocate of traffic law enforcement. It’s never been about generating revenue as so many times we have been accused during our traffic stops. We write warning/contact paper ten times more than actual citations that cost violators any out of pocket expense. I’ve always tried to strike a balance within my staff, separating those officers that aggressively enforce traffic laws and those that are more suited to investigations and minor criminal and ordinance related infractions. It’s worked well for me. When these officers are doing these duties to the best of their abilities it makes us all look good. It’s a team effort and not a competition within the ranks.

So where in lies the problem of keeping people employed here? Like never before in the history of law enforcement has there been a shortage of young people lining up to explore careers in law enforcement. In fact, with how society turned on law enforcement over the past three years, not many young people are willing to give this career a chance. And I can’t blame them. I used to go to career day speaking engagements to promote law enforcement careers to young people. I did this because I believed in what I’m doing. As things are in America today and how big corporate media portrays police officers as a whole, it’s difficult for me to encourage someone to pick this trade as an intelligent career move. For thirty years we had people apply here because they felt a connection to this community. They grew up here, family lived here, friends lived here, and they wanted to give back. 

All of those generations are gone. Employees across the country are in a career for money and benefits first and whatever extra might come along with their primary interests are a bonus. We used to be able to recruit people we knew, people whose families were life time members of this community. We could count on those people to stay here for twenty or more years. So in the last three years the liberal Democrats have done their damndest to tarnish and trash law enforcement as a whole causing many officers to bail out of their careers for something different. There is a shortage of police officers across the country now and money talks. Every larger city within a hundred miles is trying to recruit trained officers from small counties and communities. They offer twice as much pay, less years worked in order to retire, four day work weeks, and never do you have to work alone for hours at a time without backup close enough to make a difference in an emergency. Even with all of this every larger police department around us can’t fill their own rosters. If this trend continues small communities will not be able to offer around the clock, seven days a week, patrol coverage anymore. So who responds to calls after say 1:00 a.m.? I have no idea because every department in Douglas County, including the Sheriff’s Office, are short police officers.

The very worst piece of this dilemma is if there was ever a most important time in this country to have fully trained and professional police officers working in your community it’s right now. For several years I told you we’ve operated understaffed because of our turnover. I pray it doesn’t get to a point of operating with no staff at all.

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