A New York State Police Investigation Association union representative is sounding the alarm on what he believes could be a major issue statewide: a lack of new officers.
As the president of the New York State Police Investigators Association, Timothy Dymond represents investigators across the state.
"When I started policing, which is back in 2005, there was roughly 30,000-plus that would sign up for a New York State police exam," said Dymond. "The exam was offered every five years, and it was a very prestigious position. I remember people would talk of police officers as such an honorable profession and parents would brag about their kids. ‘My son or daughter is going to be a police officer.’ But that seems to have changed."
For the latest state police test, Dymond says numbers are down drastically. He says only 12,000 people signed up.
The state police are hoping recent requirement changes, like a more lenient tattoo policy and opening up eligibility until age 35, will improve their pool of applicants.
"There is a decline, but it's not unique to the state police,” said Troop G Recruiter Trooper TJ McHugh. “It's almost countrywide. Law enforcement is seeing less and less of an interest in this career field."
Dymond worries that these requirement changes could lead to a further loosening of standards and feels the focus should be in shifting mindsets.
"My opinion is it's a cultural change,” said Dymond. “It's a societal change where we need to start encouraging our young people to get involved in this profession.”
McHugh says the department has focused recruiting efforts on more community engagement.
"We are trying to get out into the communities, more community engagement, because … there's a lot of big cities out there that have a city department or they're used to seeing a certain village police officer. Not everybody knows what a trooper is,” said McHugh.
In the meantime, the state police say while recruitment is down, it doesn’t equate to additional risks for the public.
"We still maintain coverage out on the highways and in the communities,” said McHugh. “There's still troopers out there. Now troopers are working more. Make sure those shifts are covered. But there's not necessarily gaps."